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What Manish Malhotra means to Reliance

The Mukesh Ambani-owned company's decision to buy a stake in the fashion brand shows a wider aim of transforming Reliance Industries Ltd into a technology-driven retail giant

Designer Manish Malhotra during a photo session as part of the 'FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week' fashion show in Mumbai on 9 October. (AFP)

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani bought a stake in a high-end fashion brand, run by a stylist to some of Bollywood’s biggest stars, as Asia’s richest person continues to expand into luxury retail.

Reliance Brands Ltd bought 40% of MM Styles Ltd, which owns Manish Malhotra’s eponymous fashion house, the company said in a statement late on Friday. The privately-held brand was launched in 2005 by the designer, who made his name over three decades by styling Bollywood stars in some of India’s biggest blockbuster movies.

Also read: Manish Malhotra—30 years of a master trendsetter

Besides expanding the physical presence of Malhotra’s brand beyond its four flagship retail stores in India, Reliance will seek to create a “strong technology backbone” for the brand and build it into a “global couture powerhouse,” according to the statement. Reliance didn’t disclose the financial details of the transaction.

Speaking about the development, Malhotra said in the press release: “From the largest luxury couture stores in Delhi and Hyderabad; the launch of India’s first couture virtual store; and redefining glamour at Indian weddings, I have always aimed to set benchmarks across the life of the brand. The collaboration with Reliance Brands Ltd. 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 this journey.”

The investment in Malhotra speaks of Ambani’s wider aim of transforming Reliance Industries Ltd, lessening its dependence on the oil-refining and petrochemicals businesses that he inherited from his late father.

The growth of Reliance

The tycoon is quickly turning his conglomerate into a technology-driven consumer and retail behemoth as part of an increasing trend toward the consolidation of corporate power in India among a small and select group of conglomerates.

As well as acquiring marquee global brands and assets abroad in recent years, Reliance has forged partnerships with numerous luxury international brands, including Burberry Group Plc, Hugo Boss AG and Tiffany & Co.

“Recognition and appreciation for Indian couture is at an inflection point globally,” said Isha Ambani, Mukesh’s daughter and director of Reliance Retail Ltd. “Manish, the man behind the brand, has always been nimble and ahead of his times.”

Also read: Manish Malhotra: Couturier to the stars

 

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