Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail has ventured into the online retail space by taking online orders for groceries, fresh produce and household items, offering the service in a few neighborhoods in Mumbai city at the start.
Reliance follows the footsteps of overseas investors like Amazon and SoftBank, which have already latched onto the Indian online bandwagon venturing billions of dollars.
Reliance Fresh Direct, the virtual store of Reliance Retail, has begun taking orders online from residents in parts of Mumbai city and Thane for groceries, dairy products, packaged food, confectionery items, personal care and household products. Ambani, who rules India’s largest business conglomerate, Reliance Industries, has a reported net worth of $22.7bn.
Reliance Retail had reportedly conducted a dry run at their Navi Mumbai Reliance Corporate Park office using 10,000 employees to make use of the online facilities by accessing their website. They had to first register their names after which the products are delivered from the nearest Reliance Fresh or any of its distribution channels.
There is a ‘My List’ feature available on the website to save personal choices for products, and orders exceeding INR 750 will have free delivery. Payment options include Debit/Credit cards or Net Banking and Cash on Delivery.
Presently, the return policy is "no questions asked" with the amount refunded through store credit account, credit card or the customer’s payment method. But cash refunds will not be made by the company and extension of services to other cities have not been revealed yet.
The first Reliance Fresh store of Reliance Retail was launched in 2006, and now runs more than 700 stores covering 93 cities. Accounting for just revenues, it is India’s largest retailer.
In an announcement regarding the company’s latest online venture, a Reliance Retail spokesperson said: "We continue to explore newer markets and channels to leverage our solid foundation. The launch of reliancefreshdirect.com adds the ‘direct delivery channel to our network besides providing convenience and choice to our customers."
A lot of online-specific grocery retailers are doing business in India, in the form of LocalBanya and BigBasket, as shopping online for groceries has become a big hit with large city customers who want to avoid rush hour traffic and crowded malls. Another crowd-puller is the competitive pricing along with a wider product range.
As per estimates, the $15bn online shopping industry will be touching $100bn five years from now.
Many traditional grocery retail merchants are preparing to enter the field, such as Future Retail (owned by Kishore Biyani) and Aditya Birla Retail (owned by Kumar Mangalam Birla), which manages the super and hypermarket chain More.