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How Reliance stunned Amazon in battle for India’s Future Retail -Breaking

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© Reuters. Reliance JioMart vest-wearing woman instructs employees as they stock products at a Future Retail Big Bazaar store that closed in Mumbai, March 2, 20,22. Picture taken March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

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Aditya Kalra, Abhirup and Roy

MUMBAI, (Reuters) – Last week workers unloaded hundreds of grocery crates from Reliance India’s largest retailer at a Future Retail store in Mumbai.

Security turned away potential customers, dissatisfied at the state of the store, which still has the sign of Future’s largest brand, Big Bazaar. However, it will soon be rebranded to a Reliance outlet.

Reliance Industries is India’s largest conglomerate, run by Mukesh Amanbani (India’s wealthiest man), presses forward with shock de facto acquisition of highly-valued retail real property that Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:) had been eager to share-ownership.

India’s Supreme Court currently has jurisdiction over the bitter, high-profile conflict between corporate titans. Amazon tried to block Reliance’s $3.4 Billion purchase of Future Group’s retail properties.

Reliance took over Future’s stores with the most stealthy of moves on Feb. 25, when employees began to arrive at Future locations. The plans were not known by Future’s managers, as employees across the nation began calling in panic to find out more.

Everyone was anxious. It was hard to know the identities of these people. They were looking for access but the seniors weren’t aware of it,” an employee at New Delhi Big Bazaar described, explaining what occurred around 8:20 p.m.

Reliance had taken control at a Future shop in Sonipat in north Haryana. One source says that announcements were made to ask customers to vacate the store. According to another source, future employees who arrived at Vadodara, western Gujarat for work were told they had no reason and asked them to return home.

Reliance took control of 200 Big Bazaar outlets and is planning to seize 250 other Future retail outlets. Future has not paid the payments. These outlets together represent the jewels of Future’s retail network. They also account for about a third all Future outlets.

Reliance did not play a significant public role in this legal dispute. However, sources claim that it took over many of Future’s leases for some time. Future is India’s top cash-strapped retailer. Amazon’s business partner and 2nd retailer.

Reliance’s quick possession of the shops appears to be a coup de grace, according to some analysts. This hampers Amazon’s chances to unravel the transfer Future’s assets over to Reliance. This is despite the fact that the U.S.-based ecommerce giant has won a number of legal battles to block the 2020 agreement between the Indian companies.

Amazon will now fight for what? A source with direct knowledge of the legal dispute said that Amazon was fighting to win. The shops have been closed.”

Reliance and Future representative did not answer Reuters questions regarding the article. Due to the delicate nature of this dispute, sources asked not to identify themselves.

After the TAKEOVER, TALKS

Future Retail announced on Feb. 26, that it is “scaling back its operations” to reduce its losses, but did not include Reliance. Future Group, as a group, has more than $4B in debt.

According to sources, Reliance will retain Future employees in the new stores.

Amazon has an interest in Future Group, a unit it claims prevents Future Group from selling its retail assets without Future’s permission. It has described the stores and supermarkets as “irreplaceable”, in a market that generates $900 billion annually.

Over time, the legal disputes had become more complex and fraught with ugly rhetoric. Amazon demanded that Future Chief Executive Kishore Bishani be held in prison because he had disregarded a legal order. Future used to liken Amazon to Alexander The Great with his “ruthless ambitions to scorch this earth”

Amazon, however, asked at the Supreme Court Hearing unexpectedly for cordial negotiations to end the dispute on Thursday, six day after Reliance moved. Future was happy to accept this proposal.

Gopal Subramanium, Amazon’s attorney said that “people have taken over shops…let’s at the least have a discussion.”

Conversations will likely begin shortly.

Analysts believe that Amazon has gravely underestimated Reliance, regardless of what the outcome of these talks is.

Devangshu Dutta, a retail consultant Third Eyesight said that if anyone should have predicted this happening it would have been Amazon. They should also have prepared for it.

They clearly didn’t.

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