The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector in India is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. There are thousands of brands across dozens of segments. When put together, though, they paint a picture of just a handful of companies pulling all the strings.

Take homegrown Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). With a market capitalisation of $67 billion, it is India’s largest FMCG company. Many of its products—like Bru or Surf Excel—are so deeply embedded in the Indian consciousness that they have grown to be synonyms for their categories. The company’s revenue from sales for the year ended March 2020 was Rs 39,783 crore Rs 39,783 crore Hindustan Unilever Limited Annual Report for the year ended March 2020 Read more ($5.4 billion).

HUL’s nearest FMCG rival, Kolkata-based ITC Limited, saw sales of Rs 12,875 crore 12,875 crore ITC Ltd Annual Report for the year March 2020 Read more ($1.7 billion) from its FMCG vertical for the same period.

Rounding off this elite club are the likes of Swiss-headquartered Nestle S.A., and Mumbai-based Godrej Godrej The Ken The problem with Nisaba Godrej’s silver linings playbook Read more Consumer Products Ltd, both of which have similar product line ups. Nestle’s instant noodle brand Maggi enjoys a 60% 60% Market Research Instant Noodles Market in India (2018–2023) Read more -plus market share in India. It is so popular that even a brief ban in 2015 didn’t have lasting effects on its dominance dominance The Economic Times Maggi attains over 60% market share, touches pre-crisis level in value terms Read more .

With that sort of clout, these companies have towered over India’s grocery retail sector, ever-present and all-powerful. No grocery retailer of any repute could do without them. But then again, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is no ordinary company.

On 30 August, RIL’s subsidiary Reliance Retail agreed a deal to acquire debt-ridden Future Group’s retail, wholesale, logistics, and warehousing businesses for Rs 24,713 crore ($3.4 billion). The deal took Reliance Retail’s store count to 14,000. Its grocery segment was the biggest gainer, with the store count ballooning from 800 to 2,000. Reliance Retail’s grocery revenue also increased to Rs 48,600 crore ($6.6 billion) for the year ended March 2020—a 57% jump, according to a September 2020 report by brokerage firm Axis Capital.


Shruti Venkatesh

Based in Mumbai, Shruti covers ecommerce and internet for The Ken. In her previous stints with Forbes India and Outlook Business, she has also covered beats like FMCG, retail, stock market and advertising. When not chasing stories, she loves spending her time binge-watching, shopping and taking a leisurely stroll along the sea-facing promenade at Marine Drive.

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