Reliance to Buy 40% Stake in Entity Owned by Manish Malhotra

Reliance Industries has agreed to buy a 40% stake in an entity owned by fashion designer Manish Malhotra in move that seeks to expand the luxury retailing business at India’s most valuable company. The deal size wasn’t disclosed.

Reliance brands, the brand licensing arm of the Mukesh Ambani-owned company, will invest in MM Styles Private Ltd that owns the designer’s eponymous brand, endorsements, and licensing and intellectual property (IP) rights.

“Recognition and appreciation for Indian couture is at an inflexion point globally and we are excited to partner in this journey with Manish,” said Isha Ambani, director, reliance retail Ventures, the holding company for all retail entities at Reliance Industries. “Our strategic partnership with Manish Malhotra is anchored in our immense respect for his craft and our deep commitment to Indian art and culture. Being an entrepreneur, Manish, the man behind the brand, has always been nimble and ahead of his times.”

As India’s largest luxury, retailer, reliance Brands has a portfolio of nearly five dozen international brands that span across the luxury, bridge-to-luxury, high-premium and high-street lifestyle segments. These brands include Burberry, Coach, Diesel, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade and Versace, which together have more than 1,350 doors.

Two years ago, Reliance Brands also made its international entry by acquiring the British toy retailer Hamleys. Last year, it acquired a 47% stake in Genesis Luxury Fashion, which operates brands such as Armani, Canali and Michael Kors.

“Companies have increasingly realized that they have to create an Indian brand, especially in the ethnic-wear space compared with Western fashion they have been selling all these years,” said Harminder Sahni, Founder of retail consultancy Wazir Advisors.

“Reliance can even tweak the pricing and create a larger market because the brand is already strong and can be extended across price-points and markets easily.”

Indian wear, initially restricted to older age groups, now finds acceptance among younger consumers as well, with labels such as Manyavar and Fabindia driving the market, especially at the mass-premium end. Designer labels cater to the high-end, bespoke segment.

This is the first external investment for the Manish Malhotra brand, which has so far been privately held by the designer since it was founded in 2005.

Malhotra, who has been a costume stylist for nearly three decades, has a team of 700 artisans and professionals. This team creates the popular namesake brand in fashion and movie entertainment. The brand’s luxury-retail footprint includes four flagship stores in Mumbai, New Delhi and Hyderabad, two shop-in-shop outlets, a virtual store and more than 12 million social followers across various channels.

Reliance will take the brand global, the company said. “The collaboration with Reliance Brands was a natural decision for me, as it represents both Reliance’s astute vision and the family’s deep affinity for crafts and culture. As the brand aims for international expansion, business diversification and renewed creative growth, there could have been no better strategic partner to accompany us on his journey,” said Malhotra, who will continue to lead the brand as its managing and creative director. S-ET

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