RIL to now focus on monetization with ‘commerce layer’

In the next four years, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL)’s focus would be to add a third “layer of commerce” and monetize the existing investments across different formats.

According to a research report by BofA Securities, in the last 4 years, with Jio, RIL has been able to build a “digital layer” on top of the existing “physical layer” of retail shops across electronics, grocery and apparels.

“We believe the next four years, RIL’s focus would be to add a third ‘layer of commerce’ and monetize the existing investments across different formats,” the report said.

The company continues to invest in technology and is partnering with world’s best (Google, Facebook, Microsoft) as well as India’s best (invested in 20 plus startups). “We believe RIL is uniquely positioned with a sustainable competitive advantage to monetize this,” it added.

“In our view, the biggest takeaway from Jio’s last 4 year journey was that – ‘India is a supply-constrained market and not a demand-constrained market’,” the report noted.

So, as long as any company could efficiently provide goods and services at affordable prices, this market would consume.

“Jio proved the hypothesis and with potentially tariffs moving up in the future, we could see profitability also improving in cellular space,” the report said.

“Over the next 3-4 years we believe RIL will offer ‘value for money’ proposition across fiber broadband, SME & enterprise market, offline/online retail market and areas like Education, Healthcare, Agriculture and media/Gaming markets,” the report added.

The company may be successful in a few domains and potentially look to acquire start-ups in spaces where it is struggling. Indeed, it has acquired 20 plus start-ups already, in process looking to improve its value proposition to consumers.

One of the reasons why companies like Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent etc. have been able to create “shareholder value” is because they owned their customers. Due to their value proposition customers come back again and again to them.

“We believe RIL also has potential to do this. Infact RIL’s approach appears to owning the ‘pipe’ as well as the ‘services’ offered on the pipe,” it said.

“Over the next 3-5 years, we expect RIL to have 500 million mobile users, offer broadband services to 20-25 million households & cater to 12-15 million SMEs. The connectivity part of the Jio business focuses on offering these consumers the connections. The services part would focus on monetizing these,” it added.

For instance, entertainment offerings would help RIL improve stickiness. Jio may not fully monetize this but would keep users captive to cross-sell other offerings. RIL is also focusing on leveraging tech to offer Ed-tech, Health-tech, Agri-tech services.

“We also believe gaming will pick-up in India as the country has young population mix with world’s largest Gen Z workforce,” the report said.

An omni channel approach on commerce would help RIL sell its grocery, apparel and electronics items to a wider audience base. By working with the Kiranas, RIL would likely increase its B2B sales as well.

The catalyst could be a potential stake sale at retail business. As per reports, Reliance Retail may follow the Jio Platforms model, onboarding multiple investors by selling stakes in the firm. RIL has offered all 13 investors of Jio Platforms (including Facebook, Google etc.) the option to invest in its Retail unit.

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