The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Twin towers of Reliance ambition Franchisees invited for retail oil outlets

Mumbai, Jan. 20: Reliance founder Dhirubhai Ambani had started his career as a petrol pump attendant. Today his company, Reliance Industries (RIL), completed the circle by inviting franchisees to manage its petroleum retail outlets.

Incidentally, Reliance’s petroleum retail distribution network would be the first such from the private sector in a segment monopolised by public sector oil companies.

Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani had recently declared his company’s intention to commission 1,500 retail outlets by April 2004 as part of its entry into petroleum products marketing. By that time the agreement with oil PSUs Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum for distribution of fuel refined at their 27-million tonne Jamnagar refinery will come to an end.

The company has said that the retail venture would be in line with the size and global scale of projects that RIL has done in the past. The execution of the retail plan is expected to involve Rs 3,000-4,000 crore.

The company website today invited applications from interested parties, and company sources said the response was good. “We had 350 hits within an hour”.

Reliance’s plans to open retail outlets across the country have been on the drawing board for some time now. Anecdotes of Dhirubhai Ambani visiting petroleum outlets in the US with his family in tow have been mentioned by close family members recently. The multi-storeyed retail outlets in the US had caught his fancy and he had said that his ambition was to replicate similar outlets in India.

The company has hired leading identity designing consultants Minale Tattersfield & Partners of the UK to design the retail outlets. Minale’s clients include Marconi, Motorola, Nivea with products ranging from packaging to petrol pumps.

Reliance has also tied up with franchisees to sell beverages like coffee and tea under the Java Café tag and is rumoured to have struck an alliance with MRF Tyres for retailing its tyres on a commission basis. Initially, the Java Cafés with the in-house coffee and tea beverages will be vended through Web Stores.

In a clear breakaway from the traditional petrol pumps, Reliance claims it is ushering in a revolution in the petroleum retailing industry through its nation-wide network of retail outlets.

“Both our service and technology will be on a par with the best in the world. In addition to fuel, Reliance will offer a host of unique, value-added services with unmatched customer experience,” the company said.

The company had earlier declared that the first outlet would be opened in the second half of 2003.

Reliance is the first private oil company to be granted permission to market transportation fuel following deregulation of the oil sector with the government sanctioning it a total of 5849 outlets in the country. The rest of the outlets would be opened progressively.

For Reliance, this will not be the only retail foray. The company is already in the process of stringing together a chain of webstores. The chain would eventually have a strength of 777 stores.

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