Recent news reports about Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL)—India’s most valuable company—have a touch of déjà vu to them.

First came the headlines of investors lining up to pour $20 billion $20 billion Reuters Google backs Reliance's Jio Platforms with $4.5 billion India investment Read more into RIL’s digital services unit—Jio Platforms. Never before has an Indian company had such an impressive roster of backers. Among the marquee backers were internet giants Facebook and Google, private equity firms KKR & Co and Silver Lake, and chipmakers Intel and Qualcomm.

Now, there are reports reports Bloomberg KKR in Advanced Talks for $1 Billion Reliance Retail Stake Read more that some of the same investors are lining up, cheque books in tow, once again. This time, for a stake in RIL’s retail business.

The first of those deals materialised earlier this month. Silver Lake invested Rs 7,500 crore Rs 7,500 crore Mint Silver Lake to invest ₹ 7,500 crore in Reliance Retail Ventures Read more ($1 billion) for a 1.75% stake in the holding company of Reliance Retail, India’s largest retail chain by revenue and footprint. The investment came days after Reliance acquired the retail, wholesale, logistics, and warehousing businesses of debt-ridden Future Group, which operates the Big Bazaar chain of supermarkets, for around Rs 24,700 crore Rs 24,700 crore Bloomberg Reliance Buys Future Assets for $3.4 Billion Read more ($3.4 billion). As a result, Reliance Retail will have 2,100 supermarkets—10X the store count of its nearest rival, DMart.

E-commerce behemoth Amazon Amazon Bloomberg Ambani’s Reliance to Offer $20 Billion Stake in Retail Arm to Amazon Read more is also interested in getting on Reliance’s retail bandwagon, supposedly in talks for a 40% stake. Clearly, the world’s richest person, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, sees merit in joining forces with the world’s sixth-richest person, RIL chairman and MD Mukesh Ambani, rather than fighting him.

What Ambani has pulled off in the past fifteen years is as staggering as it is concerning. He unleashed the massive heft of a balance sheet bestowed by his oil-refining and petrochemicals business, spending billions of dollars to reach the zenith of both retail and telecom. In both sectors, competitors have been left in Ambani’s wake.


Seetharaman G

Starting out as a business journalist in 2008, Seetharaman has written about energy, climate change, retail, banking, and technology. He has worked with Business Today, a fortnightly, and the Sunday edition of The Economic Times.

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