India’s supermarket war seems to be in its endgame. With the dust finally settling, the field is littered with the corpses of those who have tried and failed to make it their own. Some of India’s biggest conglomerates, like Aditya Birla Group and the Godrej Group, gave up the ghost and sold out.

India’s top two retailers—Reliance Industries-owned Reliance Retail and Avenue Supermarts-run DMart—are now  squaring off squaring off The Ken The Reliance Retail-DMart face-off over essentials Read more against each other in a final fight for dominance. The third claimant to India’s retail throne, Future Group-owned Future Retail, which runs the Big Bazaar chain of supermarkets, is already in talks with Reliance Industries for a possible buyout possible buyout Business Standard RIL close to acquiring Future Retail, finalises plan with lenders Read more .

As the shadow of Reliance Retail and DMart looms ever larger over the space, one other player still remains, battered and bruised after years of struggle. From its ambitious inception in 2004, the Star chain of supermarkets has been reduced to a mere speck when compared to the market leaders.

For the year ended March 2020, Trent Hypermarket Private Ltd (THPL), which runs Star, had a topline of Rs 1,235 crore ($165 million). The figure was a mere 3.6% of Reliance Retail’s grocery revenue and just 5% of Avenue Supermarts’ sales.

The number of its retail outlets—57—is nothing to write home about, either. Reliance Retail has 797 stores; DMart’s count stands at 214. What makes Star’s current standing particularly vexing is its pedigree. The venture is backed by salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group and Britain’s Tesco Plc, one of the world’s largest grocers.

Indeed, when Tesco stepped in as an investor in March 2014—ten years into Star’s existence—it should have been a turning point for the chain. Tesco spent  $140 million $140 million Reuters Tesco confirms joint venture with Tata in India Read more for its 50% stake in THPL.

Origin story

Trent, founded in 1998, had revenue of around Rs 3,630 crore ($490 million) in the year ended March 2020. Its market capitalisation is around Rs 23,000 crore ($3.1 billion) and its board is headed by Noel Tata, half-brother of Ratan Tata, former chairman of Tata Sons, the group holding company.

The deal made Tesco the first global retailer to enter India since the country  liberalised liberalised Time Why India’s FDI Fight Is Far from Over Read more rules for foreign investment in multi-brand retail outlets in late 2012.

AUTHOR

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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