reliance-retailReliance Retail, the retail business from Reliance industries, which operates 1691 stores across 146 cities and claims to cater to 3.5 million customers every week, is planning to go online.

In its annual report (pdf, page 75) , RIL has said that the business is “poised to launch multi-channel shopping in the coming year. The potential of e-commerce combined with the network of physical store locations will offer tremendous choice and convenience at a great value to the consumer.” Reliance Retail reported revenues of Rs 14,496 crore and a profit before interest and tax of Rs 363 crore for the year. The company added 225 stores during the year. We had heard from multiple industry sources that Reliance is currently hiring for e-commerce. There were reports of it entering e-commerce in October last year, after it shut down its books and music retail business TimeOut. Now, the plan to go online is official.

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While Reliance doesn’t specify what exactly it plans to do, it’s worth noting that some stores – for Steve Madden India and Quiksilver India, are already online. Reliance has multiple business formats, but their online presence is fragmented and inconsistent:

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– Reliance Brands: Reported revenues of Rs 101.82 crore and a loss of Rs 36.04 crore, for the financial year ending 31st March 2014. In comparison to its other retail brands, Reliance Brands, which has JV’s with international brands, appears to have its act together:

  1. Quiksilver has an e-commerce site, is on Facebook and Twitter, and retails on online stores/marketplaces like Jabong and Myntra.
  2. Stevemadden also has an e-commerce site, is on Facebook and Twitter, and retails on online stores/marketplaces like Jabong and Myntra.
  3. Hamleys, the toy store, has a Facebook presence, and even ran a social media campaign around its launch. The India business doesn’t appear to have a website yet, but there is a website for the UK business, which Reliance has tied up with. Hamleys added five stores to its portfolio during the year, and RIL claims that this is now the largest franchised operation of the London-based retailer.
  4. Dune: The first stores have been opened offline. No online presence yet.
  5. Stuart Weitzman: The first stores have been opened offline. No online presence yet.
  6. London Fog, Cannon, Ed Hardy, Mossimo, Mudd and Umbro: The partnership to bring brands owned by Iconix was inked in 2012. We’re not sure if stores have opened offline yet. We couldn’t find an online presence for most of them. Umbro doesn’t have an website yet, but retails through online stores/marketplaces like JabongMyntra and Flipkart.

– Reliance Market: Their members only store now operates 32 stores across the country and has 1.2 million registered members. Its website is a banner. “Reliance Market would remain a priority for network expansion as it continues to empower the kiranas and helps the farmers and small manufacturers to benefit from the modern distribution system,” the company says.
– Reliance Footprint: The specialty footwear format has a website, but it isn’t a storefront. Even for gift coupons, Reliance Footprints directs visitors to go to a store.

– Reliance Trends: Their fashion and lifestyle store has a presence on TwitterFacebook, and has a YouTube channel, each linking to the other, but no website, it appears. Reliance Trends has its own in-house brands that account for 61% of the Trends business – Intribe, Rio, Fusion, Fig and Avaasa.
– Reliance Digital: For electronics goods and has 250 stores. The company launched the Digital Express Mini format, which focuses on mobile and communication devices. It competes with Croma, from Infiniti Retail, a part of the Tata Group. Croma retails products on its own website, and also sells products on online marketplaces. Reliance Digital is on TwitterFacebook and has a website with a product catalog ready for integration with a payment gateway. Reliance Digital also has a services arm called ResQ, and its own brand of products called ReConnect. Reliance intends to expand Digital Express Mini to newer geographies.
– Marks & Spenser India: Is Reliance’s JV with Marks & Spenser.
– Reliance Jewels: For jewelry retail. It has a website with a store locator and some basic information. It’s almost a placeholder.Over 3.5 million customers every week

Reliance has also exited the books and music category, by shuttering its TimeOut business. “The books and music category is undergoing consistent evolution catalysed by technology and the way consumers perceive these categories in a technology driven era.” It clearly doesn’t want other businesses to meet the same fate, especially in the fashion category. Another business Reliance Retail shuttered was “Delight”, its non-vegetarian food offering, “echoing consumer sentiments.”

Note that the idea of combining physical stores for distribution was also used by the Reliance ADA Group, which had used a shop-in-shop model for running the offline part of its movie rental BigFlix business.