Since its inception in 2006, Reliance Retail has become India’s largest retailer providing a world-class shopping environment, seamless supply chain, and unmatched customer service.
In conversation with IMAGES Group’s Group Managing Editor, Rasul Bailay, Akhilesh Prasad, President and Chief Executive Officer – Fashion & Lifestyle, Reliance Retail, gives us insights into the conglomerate’s brand new B2B2C initiative, along with its other business ventures and future plans.
A New B2B2C Pilot
Reliance has started a B2B2C pilot in Pondicherry to provide the entire backend support for mom-and-pop stores. This B2B2C initiative is powered to support traditional format mom-and-pop stores across the nation by providing backend and logistical support, becoming product assortment partners, assisting with store design, data analytics and customer service among a host of other services.
The company soon plans to take this pilot nationwide.
Emphasizing Reliance Retail’s plans to scale as much as possible, Prasad said, “India is still about 70% unorganized, so there is a huge scope. We are not looking to eliminate mom-and-pop stores but to get them onboard into our system and ensure that they are partners for us, so we become a back end for them. We will become their assorting partners, help with logistics, and improve their stores, customer, data, analytics, and customer service.”
Prasad believes that a smaller retailer need not go public with either a very narrow option range for their B2C operations or a multitude of overwhelming ones. By becoming digitally integrated with Reliance’s B2B2C initiative, these mom-and-pop businesses will find a one-stop destination for all their needs.
He further says, we want to add to our income and increase sales but our objective is also to support traditionally run businesses. In India, retail or textile is the second largest employer after agriculture so we can’t let it die. Our job is to ensure we uplift retailing rather than kill it.
The Alpha Beta Stage
At present, Reliance Retail’s B2B2C journey is in an ‘Alpha Beta’ stage and it is closely working with mom-and-pop stores to expand their new initiatives and business model.
Reliance Retail also launched its premium fashion and lifestyle brand, Azorte in September 2022, with its first offline store in Bengaluru. Speaking about the company’s plans for Azorte, Prasad said, Azorte displays young fashion trends, and the brand is digitized in a way that solves a majority of the customer problems.
Using Technology Where it Counts
He added, “In retail, there are three problem areas for the customer – finding what you want in terms of size or colour, trial room queues, and billing points – because customers get impatient quickly. We use technology to solve this, so if you go to the Azorte store today, it employs technology to find our pieces, book trail rooms, and also has self check out points. One can even check out items from the trail room.”
Reliance has also achieved its landmark with Trends, India’s largest fashion and retail chain and Reliance Trends is now present in 1000 Indian towns.
Speaking on the company’s plans going forward Prasad said, “India is more prosperous than we tend to believe. There is a demand everywhere and you need to have a method to cater to that demand. There are various challenges but we are now catering to population clusters of up to 20,000 people, but there is a huge amount of India which is below that level, so we will try to service those customers as well.”
He also gave insights into AJIO, one of India’s fastest growing e-commerce channels. According to him, AJIO started growing better during COVID, because even though many businesses had shut down their supply chain, AJIO kept its open in response to market needs at that time.
“We were always ready. In the COVID years AJIO grew by 400%, and now it continues to grow by 50-60% each year selling over 4.5 lakhs garments a day. I think we are the largest player in the country in ethnic wear. Trends alone sell more than 1 lakh kurtas every day.”
Reliance’s B2B2C approach is designed to add to the expansion of the company and the Indian retail market at large.