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Reliance Plans Hybrid ‘Online-To-Offline’ Retail

Reliance Industries is actively exploring ways to assimilate the online and offline retail channels. The key to the seamless integration of the two business methods is the company’s 4G telecom service Jio.

Mukesh Ambani made multiple announcements at Reliance’s 41st Annual General Meeting(AGM) in Mumbai. The tech world has been talking excitedly about Jio Gigafiber, Jio DTH, Jio SmartHome and such other technological advances that Indians will soon get access. However, amidst the euphoria, Ambani mentioned he intends to create a hybrid online to offline retail platform.

Although Ambani did not add any more details, it is amply clear that he intends to leverage the nationwide 4G coverage of Jio to bring about some revolutionary changes in the way businesses operate. More specifically, he is keen to deploy the 4G network for enhancing online engagement and connect the offline retail. The fact that  Reliance Retail’s revenue grew by 100 percent on a year-on-year (YoY) basis is further proof that offline retail is doing good, and now needs more online participation from Indians who have easy access to high speed mobile internet.

How Will Reliance’s Hybrid Online To Offline Retail Work?
Ambani mentioned the new and hybrid platform will bring together the 35 Crore customer footfall at Reliance Retail stores, 21.5 Crore Jio customers and nearly 3 Crore small merchants and shop-keepers from all across India, reported News 18. These are undoubtedly staggering numbers.

It is quite likely that Reliance is exploring ways to deploy internet-driven ‘merchant point of sale’ for small shop owners. The Jio 4G network will allow even small or medium sized merchants to leverage the power of high speed internet to manage and conduct their business through the online platforms. Quite a high number of merchants today rely on offline or standalone systems.

The 4G platform can allow them to manage inventory, keep digital records, and improve working capital management. The power of internet can be easily employed to retain and upgrade customers, access new customers, run promotion and loyalty programs, and even file returns etc. without employing multiple agencies.

Reliance Plans To Deploy Advanced Virtual, Augmented And Mixed Reality?
The wall-to-wall promise of high-speed internet coverage certainly opens up several possibilities. Using advanced technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) Reliance can allow customers to shop in an immersive 3D experience without leaving the homes or office. Such technologies can even open up several ways to educate the customers about the products through multimedia.

Reliance Retail already boasts of being a hyper-local business. Such technologies could easily be deployed at such locations or even leased out to merchants. Such techniques should allow shopkeepers to significantly reduce the need to stock a large inventory and run a lean business.

Could Reliance Also Explore Online Browsing, Offline Delivery Business Model?
Interestingly, such a model is not an entirely new concept. Commonly referred to as the Brick-And-Click, the system relies on online shopping and offline stores to conduct business. Internationally, companies like Walmart have successfully implemented such method to retain their customers even if consumers have changed the way they shop.

Mukesh Ambani has been aggressively expanding in the retail and telecom sector. As of this year, the company’s EBDTA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) for the retail business more than doubled. The Jio customer base is growing at an accelerated rate and recently crossed 200 million. The two sectors are undeniably Reliance’s fastest growing segments. Hence it is only logical that the company will seek ways to synergize the two.

The average Indian customer is increasingly buying online. However, the offline or physical retail is also growing due to rising disposable incomes. As more Indians adopt 4G, Jio and Reliance Retail can be prepared to serve them through an amalgamated platform that Ambani calls “Hybrid Online To Offline Retail” model. – Mysmartprice

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