In 1975 a World Bank team visited 24 leading textile mills and said ‘judged in relation to developed country standards, only 1 mill, Reliance, could be described as excellent’. The rest they described as slums.
“For those who Dare to Dream, There is a whole World to Win,” said the late visionary and Reliance’s founder Dhirubhai Ambani. This quote is very profound in this context given how from textiles, Reliance has come a long way! Oil & Petrochemicals, Retail, Media, Telecom, real estate, and a Zoo too! (Yes, real estate and Zoo too)
Reliance – Say the word and everyone will recognize the name, the business, or the wealth its promoter owner Mukesh Ambani has.
From March 2017 to as of today (Nov 23, 2020) Reliance Industries has raised a mammoth Rs 3,67,875.7 Cr! Just to put that in perspective the Government of India raised a total of Rs 2.5 Lakh Cr in 3 years. The below image shows the breakup of various sources tapped used to raise this mind-boggling sum!
Note – Short forms used for companies that invested. GA stands for General Atlantic, Silver L for Silver Lake, and so on. In the NCD section, the date is not the date of raising but the date of listing of the mentioned NCD.
Reliance Industries has been making headlines ever since the lockdown started and there has been no stop to them, the who’s who of the tech world such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Intel invested in Jio and the same happened in Reliance Retail.
But how did this frenzied fund raise take place?
Let us go to the past – In the past Oil was their Main business, but after the global financial crisis, oil has been slowly losing its pace due to a host of reasons – Climate change, Cleaner fuels, and stricter emission norm rules both on the automobile industry and on countries as a whole. RIL owns the world’s most complex refinery at Jamnagar.
One unheard story I love of Dhirubhai Ambani(This is regarding Jamnagar refinery)- This just goes on to show how forward-looking he was and how he took into account all the unforeseen events. This foresightedness is clearly seen in Mukesh Ambani as we will see very shortly.
The company in its annual report said the Jamnagar refinery supersite ranks first in the world in complexity barrels, aided by best-in-class refinery and petrochemicals integration. Complexity index (CI) designates the capabilities of a refinery to upgrade the lowest quality crude to the highest quality refinery products, including fuels and petrochemicals.
For a very long time, RIL was synonymous with Oil but then in December 2015, they announced the launch of telecom company Jio.
This is a very important date because it actually shows through RIL’s actions their intent to change rapidly. Why the decision to change rapidly? Simple, they knew they were in a race against time to pivot (a startup term which denotes the action of a company shifting its business strategy to accommodate changes in its industry, customer preferences, or any other factor that impacts its bottom line.) as Oil business was about to decline and the frothy GRM’s and the cash the business was generating was about to see declines. The scope of their oil and gas business can be seen below –
With the launch of Jio, Reliance started an undercutting price war in the Telecom industry that bankrupted a few and drove consolidation in the sector.
Reliance Retail was also expanding big time in the background. It became India’s biggest retailer with more than 12000 stores covering an area of 28.7 mn sq ft.
The kind of businesses under Reliance Retail and their brands will certainly leave you astonished!
But only stores don’t matter, the efficiency does , check this out –
From Jio’s launch in Dec 2015, let’s jump a bit ahead to March 2016 when the seeds were starting to be sown for the Reliance of the Future. Let’s look at the flurry of deal-making that Reliance has done from March 2016 till today!
The newsflow history throws a lot of light as to what Reliance plans to do and how it plans to pivot from Oil! From March 2016 we tracked all the newsflow and noted 109 such pieces of announcements! For convenience, we have bifurcated them to Jio/Digital, Retail, Oil, and Others.
Jio/Digital Newsflow – There were a total of 46 newsflow items under this category. Click here to see the complete newsflow, dates, details, and our analysis.
Some of the most notable deals here have to be the acquisitions that Jio did to create its technology stack (AI, ML, IoT, incubator investment, next-gen network topologies, voice tech, simulations lab, MSME tech provider, Fiber, and even Government 2 consumer schemes provider startup ), OTT stack (Eros, Hathway, Den, Star India), Ed-tech (Education technology), Transport/Logistics (Magnetic levitation, logistics).
The two items that stood out from the whole stack were Facebook and Google Investment. We will talk about it in detail in ‘The Future’ section in the latter part of this article.
Reliance Retail (RR) Newsflow – There were a total of 26 newsflow items under this category. Click here to see the complete newsflow, dates, details, and our analysis.
Some of the most notable deals here have to be the acquisitions that RR did to strengthen its fashion brand stack (Genesis Colors, Rhea Retail, Future101 Design).
The four items that stood out from the whole stack were the buy-in of Alok Industries (a textile player), acquisition of Future group’s businesses, acquisition of NetMeds, and acquisition of 87.6% of Shopsense Retail (“Shopsense” or “Fynd” that provides a technology platform and solutions to merchants to manage their inventory and sales across multiple demand channels for consumers, including e-commerce platforms.). One more item that stood out from the Digital part of the newsflow which gave a signal of RIL’s pharma interest was the acquisition of 82% of C-Square that provides software solutions with a specific focus on the pharma sector for various stakeholders including C&F, distributors, retailers, online e-commerce, sales force automation, etc. We will discuss this in detail in the end.
Reliance Oil, Petchem & Gas Newsflow – There were a total of 23 newsflow items under this category. Click here to see the complete newsflow, dates, details, and our analysis.
The four items that stood out from the whole stack were – RIL commissioning the world’s largest refinery off-gas cracker at Jamnagar, the third phase of KG D6 development with BP, fuel retailing with BP (expand from 1,400 retail sites and 30 aviation fuel stations across India to up to 5,500 retail sites and 45 aviation fuel stations) and the New Indian fuels & mobility JV with BP.
The most notable one was of course the ARAMCO announcement where Saudi ARAMCO and RIL signed a non-binding letter of intent to acquire a 20% stake in the Oil-to-chemicals (O2C) division of RIL valued at an enterprise valuation of USD 75 billion. This deal is definitely valued accretive for both players as RIL gets very long-term crude supply contracts locked in and ARAMCO gets access to a lucrative market and also access to the world’s most complex refinery.
From Aug 2019 (deal announcement) to the start of this year, the deal kept on dragging longer and the share price of RIL fell rapidly but again it was taken to greater heights due to the flurry of deal-making in Jio and Retail. Now there is a lot of speculation regarding the ARAMCO deal, some say the valuation was high, some say ARAMCO doesn’t want to invest right now.
What Reliance said – Speaking at the company’s first virtual annual general meeting, Mukesh Ambani said that due to unforeseen circumstances in the energy market, the deal (with Aramco) has not progressed as per original timeline. In the meanwhile, company’s equity requirements have already been met. “Nevertheless, we at Reliance value our over two-decade long relationship with Saudi Aramco and are committed to a long-term partnership,” he said.
But it’s always better to listen to the company itself and hence we heard the ARAMCO concall and this is what the ARAMCO CEO and President said – ” With regard to the Reliance deal, all I can say at this stage, it is going through the due diligence. So depending on the due diligence, we will make our decision after we complete the due diligence on that deal. This is a big deal, so we need to take our time to review and then decide based on the outcome of the due diligence study.”
Other segments Newsflow – There were a total of 14 newsflow items under this category. Click here to see the complete newsflow, dates, details, and our analysis.
And one more thing to note over here is that Reliance is at an inflection point and no, 2020 is not the future of Reliance! All the deal making and the partnerships have just begun and will start to gain traction only in a few quarters from now on!
We have also created a performance matrix that shows the key metrics of Jio (since Q3FY17), RR (since Q3FY15 ), Oil (since Q3FY17). (Click to see the matrix)
Oil – ARAMCO | New Age Fuels | Fuel Retailing
ARAMCO Deal – 20% stake in O2C business. With a stake, Aramco would not just have a stake in one of the world’s best refineries and largest integrated petrochemical complex but also access to one of the fastest-growing markets – a ready-made market for 500,000 barrels per day of its Arabian crude and offering a potentially bigger downstream role in future.
According to RIL, every second child going to school in India wears a uniform made from RIL’s polyester.
RIL’s refinery is one of the most complex in the world, allowing it to earn a significant premium to the benchmark Singapore gross refining margin. Its petrochemical complexes rank among the biggest in the world, whose dependency on outside raw materials is minimal. RIL has leadership positions both in the domestic polymer and polyester markets.
The benefit of Reliance? It will further bolster RIL’s formidable crude sourcing capabilities that have traditionally given it an edge over many other competitors and aided its gross refining margin (GRM). Saudi Aramco, among the largest oil producers in the world, will supply 500,000 barrels per day, or 25 million tonnes per annum, of crude oil to RIL’s twin refineries at Jamnagar in Gujarat. With the added security of supply, the deal could also bring RIL pricing advantages given that a key supplier will now also be an investor in the business. This will also have a positive knock-on effect on the petrochemicals business, which has crude oil as the main raw material. It will also, to an extent, cushion RIL from the uncertainties in the global crude oil market due to the many frequent instances of geopolitical tensions.
New Value Chains – Their O2C business has competitive feedstock streams that are the building blocks for specialty and new value chains of Acetyls, Acrylates, Phenols, and Polyurethanes. Reliance has been approached by global companies for strategic partnerships in its petrochemical business, including in utilizing these feedstocks.
These potential partnerships will help us build competitive manufacturing capacity at our existing sites to serve the deficit Indian market that still depends on large-scale imports of chemicals. With this, they will have an integrated and competitive Oil to Chemicals portfolio which is valuable to global companies as it provides access to the large and growing Indian market.
Oil retailing with BP
Cleaner fuels – While Reliance will remain a user of crude oil and natural gas, they said they are committed to embracing new technologies to convert CO2 into useful products and chemicals.
They have already made substantial progress on photosynthetic biological pathways to convert CO2 emissions at Jamnagar into high-value proteins, nutraceuticals, advanced materials, and fuels.
They will develop next-gen carbon capture and storage technologies. They are evaluating novel catalytic and electrochemical transformations to use CO2 as a valuable feedstock. Reliance also has proprietary technology to convert transportation fuels to valuable petrochemical and material building blocks. And at the same time, they will replace transportation fuels with clean electricity and hydrogen.
They will combine our strengths in digital, power electronics, advanced materials, and electrochemistry to build full-stack electrolyser and fuel cell solutions in India. They will build an optimal mix of reliable, clean, and affordable energy with hydrogen, wind, solar, fuel cells, and battery. Transforming their energy business to tackle one of the biggest challenges before India and the World is a new growth opportunity for them, as they said.
Jio – Ecosystem of – Telecom subscribers, Smartphones manufacturing, and a complete universe of applications (an App stack like wechat)
The power of an ecosystem is worth what? I say a Trillion Dollars! No, I am not speculating – it’s a fact! One of the major reasons behind Apple (a 2 Trillion $ company) being a successful company is that they have created an ecosystem of hardware and software which is hard to leave! If you have an iPhone, then you buy an iWatch, then apps on the App Store, and so on.
This has happened to a certain extent. They started a price war and drove their competitors to consolidate or go bankrupt. The next leg will be to attack competitors on their strong fronts (supporting lower bandwidths, international expansion, postpaid, DTH, Fiber, etc) and keep increasing subscribers. They will also increase the plan tariffs once a while (as they have been doing right now as they can’t bleed forever. the Telecom spectrum and other costs are very expensive you see).
In its recent AGM, Mukesh Ambani said “In the next THREE years, I can see a strong path for Jio to connect Over a HALF A BILLION mobile customers; Over a BILLION smart sensors; and Over 50 million HOMES and BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENTS. But, what is perhaps not so well known is that JIO’s global-scale 4G and FIBER network is powered by several core software technologies and components… that have been developed by young Jio engineers, right here in India. And this capability and know-how that JIO has developed, positions JIO on the cutting edge of another exciting frontier– 5G. TODAY, Friends, I have great pride in announcing… That JIO has designed and developed a complete 5G solution from scratch.”
They also emphasized the following technologies – 4G and 5G technologies, Cloud Computing, Devices, and Operating Systems, Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Mixed Reality, Blockchain, Natural Language Understanding, and Computer Vision to create compelling solutions that span multiple Industry verticals and ecosystems like Media, Financial Services, New Commerce, Education, Healthcare, Agriculture, Smart Cities, Smart Manufacturing and
And of course, what’s the best way to keep a customer retained for many years? Create an ecosystem! The 2 points below show how.
Google – The world’s most powerful search engine coming in as an investor in Jio is not a joke. Over here the dots are very simple to connect, Google and Jio are going to make a phone together and cater to the Indian market who don’t yet have a feature phone or want to change to an affordable smartphone (As per an ET article on Dec 2019, there are about 450 million smartphone users as compared to 550 million feature phone users in India. About 40-45% of feature phone users own a device at less than Rs 1000. So the cost of ownership, the lack of internet literacy, and the rigidity that feature phones have are holding the users back from buying a smartphone,” said Navkender Singh, Research Director, IDC India.)
As India is standing at the doorsteps of the 5G era, we should accelerate the migration of 350 million Indians, who currently use a 2G feature phone, to an affordable smartphone said Reliance in its latest AGM.
One thing to note here is that Jio LYF devices (mobile phones of Jio under the brand name Lyf became quite popular at that time because the offers of 3 month free data and 6 month free data were given. Will they package it the same way this time too? Time will tell) and other Jio phones since their launch in 2017, sold 7 Cr units in 2 years!
If we assume that they sell 10 Cr units in 5 years at a price of Rs 10000/unit, then we get a topline of Rs 1 Lakh Cr. Per year topline will be Rs 20000 Cr, the quarterly topline of Rs 5000 Cr. Let’s assume EBITDA of 10% and NPM of 5%, then quarterly EBITDA will be Rs 500 Cr and Net profit of Rs 250 Cr. This will be ~4% of quarterly topline and 2.5% of net profit. (as per Q2FY21 figures) It seems very small but the start will be good and of course if the margins are better than this, it will start affecting the numbers in a sizeable way.
One more interesting aspect of the hardware is that big phone manufacturers can negotiate billion-dollar contracts with software companies to keep their apps pre-loaded on their devices. The best example of this is Google paying Apple every year for google to be the default search engine on iPhones. (The US DOJ cites “public estimates” saying that Google pays Apple between $8 billion and $12 billion per year to be the default search engine on Apple products.)
Now, this is a bit far fetched because the total number of Active iPhone users is around a billion! And just the sales of iPhone in 2018 and 2019 are as follows –
There is a stark difference in the kind of sales iPhone does and Jio does. Therefore they may not be able to command billions but certainly, it will be one of the revenue sources supporting this segment.
Complete universe of applications (an App stack like WeChat)
Can RIL become like Wechat? Well, they are certainly developing businesses in all sectors or at least businesses (ed-tech, OTT platform, AR/VR, MSME business software, G2C platform, transport, logistics, retail) that are supporting the complete plethora of businesses. (think of Jio Money being accepted everywhere) + With Facebook, they can piggyback on widely popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp. What’s even more interesting is that while Jio started taking orders from WhatsApp, FB also rolled out a store catalog update in its WhatsApp basically creating a marketplace on WhatsApp itself! Even Whatsapp pay got approval by the Indian regulators after the Jio deal announcement and over here Jio Pay can also be stacked on top. (Retail + payments captured)
But it’s too soon to compare Jio super app seeds or intent to Wechat. We chat works seamlessly in China because they own all the apps in the We Chat ecosystem. (The internet ecosystem is practically owned by BAT – Baidu Alibaba Tencent) The power of an ecosystem is quite powerful. Prominent Examples – Apple (Suite of hardware, software/apps that only works within their own ecosystem), Google (pre-installed apps and default settings), and Tencent (Wechat, QQ. Now the single Wechat app is a world of apps as you can do everything inside the app – instant messaging, taking a loan, payments, getting a cab, paying utility bills.)
Retail – Payments, more stores, kirana conversions
From the news flow, the evolution of the market, and what has been disclosed – Reliance Retail may do this.
Omni Channel largely – JioMart, own stores + Kirana conversion (converting Kirana stores to Jio fulfillment centers or Jio branded centers -wherein they renovate shops, and get the shopkeeper in the JIO ecosystem through jio POS device) | Greatly reduce the no of store additions except what it gets in their acquisitions
Unorganized Market – Capture the unorganized market through fintech via PoS devices + converting Kiranas to Jio fulfillment centers. There are 1.2 Cr Kirana stores in India as per a FE report in June 2020.
Why unorganized market you ask? Here’s why 🙂
Suppose these kiranas (mom and pop stores. According to market research agency Nielsen, there are around 12 million Kirana stores in the country, accounting for 90 percent of domestic retail and FMCG sales) do a business of just Rs 1000 (taking a tiny figure irrespective of size, cyclicality, location, etc and ironing it to a small figure) – the daily turnover will be then 1200 Cr, Monthly will be Rs 36000 Cr and yearly will be Rs 4,32,000 Cr
Suppose Reliance captures 5% of it that will be 21600 Cr. suppose EBITDA margin of 10% – 2160 Cr, NPM of 5% – 1080 Cr Please note – Couldn’t find the exact margins on POS systems so took basic percentages
Or what RIL will do is simply undercut competitors by predatory pricing and amazing freebies for PoS users, the JIO model basically. Anyways to start with, their PoS differentiation is that they have ERP and Inventory mgmt inside built-in.
Organized Market – Build an ecosystem of Retail. From Data to Karela. (From Mobiles to Vegetables) Electronics, Data, Clothes (Premium, Non-Premium), Fruits|Vegetables, Accessories, Jewelry
Won’t be surprised if Jio comes with a full Reliance universe membership (Can swipe at fuel outlets of reliance, can use for recharge of data and even in retail stores for clothes, etc) A Super App can very well be in the works for them. (On lines of Wechat as we spoke before)
Other Retail –
The three deals that stood out from the whole retail stack were the buy-in of Alok Industries (a textile player), acquisition of Future group’s businesses, and acquisition of 87.6% of Shopsense Retail (“Shopsense” or “Fynd” that provides a technology platform and solutions to merchants to manage their inventory and sales across multiple demand channels for consumers, including e-commerce platforms.) Reliance may very well want to create an end to end textile business (textile factories making the clothes, branding, marketing, and then selling in-retail outlet or via e-commerce).
Reliance says – “We deal with tens of thousands of farmers that helps them source over 80% of fresh fruits and vegetable directly from farmers. They sell more fruits and vegetables than any other organised retailer in the country. JioMart is a tech-enabled partnership that will link producers, traders, small merchants, consumer brands and consumers. And will reduce inefficiencies thereby creating more value for everyone in the retail ecosystem.Connecting farmers and delivering their fresh produce directly to homes is a key part of our grocery strategy. This will significantly improve farmer income and incentivize higher productivity. New Commerce will transfer significant new value to consumers, producers and merchants.”
One item that stood out from the Digital part of the newsflow that gave a clear signal of RIL’s pharma interest was the acquisition of 82% of C-Square that provides software solutions with a specific focus on the pharma sector for various stakeholders including C&F, distributors, retailers, online e-commerce, sales force automation, etc.
On Aug 18, 2020, the pharma ambition puzzle became complete when they acquired a majority stake in the pharma marketplace ‘Netmeds’ and also its holding company. Vitalic and its subsidiaries are in the business of pharma distribution, sales, and business support services. Its subsidiary also runs an online pharmacy platform – Netmeds – to connect customers to pharmacists and enable doorstep delivery of medicines, nutritional health, and wellness products.
What’s more interesting is when RIL acquired Netmeds, this was the newsflow –
To sum it up –
- Reliance bought NetMeds
- Amazon entered e-pharma space
- PharmEasy to merge with rival Medlife
According to a RedSeer report, the e-pharma industry + consultancy diagnostics is ~$1.2 billion. This is expected to reach about $16 billion in 5 years. That justifies the interest, I guess!
In Nov 2020, Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL) bought 96% of Urban Ladder (with the option to buy the remaining 4% stake also), the company said in a stock exchange filing on Saturday night. RRVL proposes to make a further investment of up to ₹75 crores, taking its ownership to 100% in the furniture e-tailer, which is expected to be completed by December 2023.
The furniture acquisition looks very surprising because at first glance this piece doesn’t fit quite properly. But it does, in April 2017, RIL partnered with Germany’s Resysta to bring innovative wood alternatives in India. (The exclusive right of production and marketing of RelWood, a natural fiber polymer composite (NFPC))
Seems with these 2 acquisitions, they plan to synergize and target the furniture market.
There isn’t much to say about Reliance’s Media ambitions as it already has a strong hold on the Media sector.
- 1 in every 2 Indians a consumer of our broadcast content
- TV channels reach out to 800+ million people in India annually, representing 95%+ of the TV viewing universe.
- One in every four internet users in India is on Network18 websites or apps – Digital properties are now used by over 190 million people every month
According to a Rediff article – “With an asset and project value of over Rs 40,000 crore under its belt (according to estimates), Reliance Industries has quietly become a key real estate player with the potential to monetize this portfolio. Its major real estate forays have been undertaken by three subsidiaries and in turn by their subsidiaries.
These are Model Economic Township (MET), which has an inventory of Rs 7,100 crore; Indian Film Combine with projects on the books worth Rs 2,700 crore; and the biggest, Reliance Corporate IT Park with total assets of Rs 31 crore, mostly in fixed assets, according to Goldman Sachs’ figures, based on annual reports.
In a presentation by Reliance, it showed MET as an 8,250 acre, integrated, industrial, residential, commercial, and recreational township located in Haryana, 30 km away from Gurugram.
MET has built up industrial clusters which include units for electronics, footwear, pharma, engineering, and SMEs, and is building a private freight terminal.
The integrated township has already roped in over 190 companies in the first phase, including global names such as Panasonic, Denso, and Tsuzuki.
Over 40 per cent of the companies are from Japan, Korea, and France.
With the auto hub in Gurugram and Manesar nearby, many of MET’s tenants are OEM suppliers to Maruti Suzuki, Honda Motors, and Honda two-wheelers.
Also present are seven anchor clients who are currently occupying over 400 acres of land already.
The company runs the 500-acre complex known as the Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai which, apart from housing Reliance Jio’s offices, has network centers, data centers, a sports complex, and a stadium. Even after all this, it is still left with a substantial land bank which could be used for something else, say sources.”
Mango Orchards! Really?
Zoo? Wait, what!
Platform Business (like Tencent’s WeChat?)
From all of the above, we come to know that Reliance wants to pivot from its old businesses and house all the businesses in a platform kind of a setup.
How will Jio’s platform or a super app look like? Good question! I thought the same and then visualized something like this –
But that’s not the only race the group is against. Mukesh Ambani is also set to retire very soon and it seems highly probable that each of his 3 children will get a major business (Oil, Jio, and Retail). The fundraise seems to be a step towards that.
FB + Google as a strategic partner in Jio, Aramco in Oil, and a big partner (most probably) in Reliance Retail. The succession plan would see the split of the conglomerate to see smooth succession (because we all know how Dhirubhai Ambani had left for the heavenly abode without any will and things went so heated during that time, that it was the first time in the world that a nation’s finance minister pleaded to a corporate group to resolve issues as the financial markets and economy were getting affected) and one strategic partner each in one of each 3 main businesses to ensure the businesses have a proper direction and oversight.
If Reliance gets demerged into 3 main businesses – Jio, Retail, Oil. Which one will you hold and which one will you exit? Please note, hold none of them is also a valid option.
Fun facts on Reliance Industries
That’s how the likely future of Reliance looks like folks! It is indeed the Amazon of India because just like Amazon in the US, Reliance in India has its footprint in all of the sectors and it affects our everyday lives (knowingly unknowingly) and if things go as per RIL’s plans, an aam aadmi will be even more dependent on Reliance!
Fund Raising Data is taken from exchanges (here is the image showing the same in greater detail)
ET article on Feature phones
Livemint article on iPhones
Counter Point Research
Indian INC Group
RIL Presentations, Numbers, newsflows , Annual Reports and AGM Speeches
Yahoo Finance Concall section
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