With a giant mall, Reliance in India is aiming for the next gold rush: luxury goods

  • Reliance builds luxury mall in $1 billion storefront in Mumbai
  • The world’s biggest luxury brands will open stores in a mall – document
  • Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermès, Cartier among the points of sale – document
  • Luxury is Reliance’s next retail salvo after supermarkets and e-commerce
  • Isha, daughter of magnate Ambani, helps run luxury – sources

MUMBAI, April 26 (Reuters) – Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani is betting a shopping palace in a billion-dollar Mumbai retail storefront will tap into growing demand for Western luxury goods, setting up his Reliance empire as a portal through which most of the bigger brands have to pass. .

Although still small for a country of its size, India’s luxury market is expected to nearly double to nearly $5 billion within five years, according to Euromonitor estimates. Targeting that growth, Reliance is building a mall with dozens of outlets for major brands from Louis Vuitton to Gucci, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

The swanky mall, Jio World Plaza, is the centerpiece of Reliance’s bid to attract ultra-wealthy Indians eyeing expensive bags or shoes. Luxury’s dominance would come on top of its number one position in India’s nearly $900 billion retail market, where it faces intense competition from e-commerce and supermarkets like Amazon (AMZN.O) and Walmart (WMT.N).

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Three people with direct knowledge of Reliance’s strategy said the push was aimed at leveraging partnerships with overseas brands and being ahead of retail rivals in luxury offerings.

The total cost of developing the Jio World Center – a giant shopping and cultural center in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla business district which is home to the luxury mall – is more than $1 billion, a person has said. knowing the subject.

Reliance’s sizable investment, with a market value of $238 billion, shows the Ambani family’s desire to expand into luxury – especially their 30-year-old daughter Isha, who is closely involved in running the thrust.

“Global brands want to be here (in India), Reliance is trying to drive this boom and act as a catalyst,” said a second person with knowledge of Reliance’s strategy.

The sources declined to be identified as they are not authorized to publicly disclose Reliance’s strategy.

Reliance did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

The mall, spread over four floors and the size of 10 football pitches, will feature marble floors and gold railings, according to the documents. After COVID-19 disruptions delayed commodity imports, the mall is likely to open early next year, sources said.

A floor plan in a Reliance document reviewed by Reuters shows around 30 brands confirmed in recent weeks for the mall’s upper ground floor, including LVMH’s Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Dior (LVMH.PA). Also in attendance will be LVMH competitors Kering (PRTP.PA) Gucci, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta, as well as Versace, Richemont (CFR.S) Cartier and Hermes (HRMS.PA).

The document does not disclose financial details, or whether the lineup of brands might be subject to change. None of the brands responded to requests for comment.

Jio World Plaza outlets represent a significant expansion in India for many brands. Company websites show, for example, that Louis Vuitton has only three stores in India, despite opening its first outlet two decades ago, while Versace has only one.

Louis Vuitton’s outlet in the mall will be the largest in India at 7,376 square feet, the document said.

Pankaj Renjhen of ANAROCK Property Consultants said India’s luxury market is so small that many overseas brands prefer to partner with Reliance to control costs and capitalize on its mastery – and understanding – of the Indian luxury market. retail.

Euromonitor estimates that the size of India’s personal luxury market was $2.6 billion last year, but is expected to grow 12% annually to reach $4.7 billion by 2026. In comparison, the market Chinese, where Louis Vuitton has about 60 outlets and Versace 40, to reach $107 billion by 2026, up from $58 billion last year.

For years, foreign brands have been crippled by problems, including a limited number of stores in India, which “creates a chicken and egg problem,” said Luca Solca, senior luxury goods analyst at Bernstein. .

Rather than high-end bags, luxury for many ambitious Indians still means things like family vacations abroad – for now.

But according to Hurun India Wealth Report, the number of millionaire households in the country increased by 11% in 2021 compared to the previous year. Their favorite brands? Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Burberry (BRBY.L).

The Mumbai mall is the Ambanis’ first attempt to bring together high-powered, non-partner luxury brands with existing partners for local sales like Tiffany and Bottega Veneta. About half of the luxury tier brands will be Reliance partners, documents show.

Luxury executives see the mall as a show of strength in a long-term bet for Reliance that is much more than a vanity project for Isha and the Ambani family, although it won’t be a money-maker. anytime soon.

Isha was closely involved in the conceptualization of the new mall, including how Reliance presented the highly sensitive placement of rival brands next to each other, two sources said.

Last year, Fortune India magazine called her an “heiress of service” at Reliance, ranking her as the 21st most powerful woman in India.

Four Indian brands – in which Reliance has invested in recent months with the intention of globalizing them – will be the only national names on the luxury floor of the mall, which will also feature cafes and a six-screen multiplex cinema.

“The mall will act as a tremendous image booster for Reliance,” said Abhay Gupta, CEO of Indian consultancy Luxury Connect, which advises several global brands.

“It looks like they want to convey, ‘You can’t think of India without thinking of Reliance’.”

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Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Abhirup Roy in Mumbai; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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