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Ambani brothers plan retail foray

By Indrajit Gupta
May 06, 2005 15:06 IST
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Even as a settlement between the Ambani brothers seems imminent, a new flashpoint might be emerging -- organised retail. For over two years now, Reliance has been scoping for a large-scale foray in retail, a sector they feel can be a powerful growth engine for the group, says Businessworld.

Sources say that a team headed by Hetal Meswani, a cousin of the Ambani brothers and a confidant of Mukesh, is readying to launch a chain of hypermarkets soon across the country. Since Infocomm is likely to move to Anil, retail is seen as Mukesh's next big project.

Wal-Mart set to enter India

On the other hand, Anil is scouting for opportunities where he can invest the cash he will get after the settlement with his brother. And he, too, has identified organised retail as a possible growth engine for his group.

For now, Mukesh enjoys a two-year headstart. His core team, Anand Jain and the Meswani brothers, typically move from one new business to another. The oil retailing business has been established -- the company has already set up 450 pumps. Had Infocomm been around in their camp, they possibly would have been busy rolling out retail broadband.

But now, Mukesh has to find a new business where his start-up team can be deployed. That is retail. Especially since the group has been working on the retail plans for over two years now.

In fact, recruitment for the venture began as early as January this year.

As for Anil, he is believed to be in talks with Wal-Mart to partner them in India. The US retailer is just one of the companies he is reported to be talking to -- there is British retailer Tesco as well.

A delay in the settlement could hurt his plans. This is why he is anxious for a quick settlement -- and plenty of cash -- to build his new empire.

In contrast, given that this is seen as a big thrust area, it is likely that Mukesh's team will prefer to build competencies internally, instead of allying or partnering.

As ever with the Ambanis, the stakes are high. This, in some senses, is a battle of pride. A successful entry into an emerging business, Anil believes, will prove that he is as capable as his elder brother.

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