Reliance Industries became India’s biggest company by fueling the subcontinent’s cars and homes with oil and gas. But for its next venture, the $50 billion conglomerate has its sights set on another kind of energy altogether: fast food.
According to The Economic Times, Reliance, which is headed by multibillionaire Mukesh Ambani, is gearing up to launch a new chain of fast food restaurants for Indian consumers within the next year. Reliance Industries has recruited Rishi Negi, the COO of movie theater company Fame Indian and a former Pizza Hut India executive, to develop and run the new fast food brand.
Sources close to Reliance have said that the chain’s style of food has yet to be determined. But the business model is said to be based on companies like McDonald’s, with a standardized menu and hopes of national domination. Sources have said that delivery will be a key part of the chain’s revenue model.
The Indian fast food sector has been growing quickly over the past few years. But India, as compared to China and Russia, whose industries have also experienced rapid expansion, has been relatively slower to warm up to international fast food chains. For example, Yum Brands, the owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut has been hugely successful in China for more than a decade, but just launched an independent Indian division a few weeks ago.
But if the Indian fast food market is in some ways an unusually difficult one, Reliance’s new entrant will also have some unusual advantages.
The chain will be a subsidiary of Reliance Retail, which has already become a major player in Indian consumer goods since its founding in 2006, and so knows the market well.
And Ambani has demonstrated time and time again that he the resources and willpower to commit to projects that others would balk at. He’s the world’s ninth-richest man, with a net worth estimated at $22 billion. In America, he is best known for having built the world’s most expensive private residence, a 27-story skyscraper in downtown Mumbai. Although let’s hope for his sake that the fast food company pleases him more than the house: reports have said that Ambani has yet to move his family into the tower, more than a year after the building’s construction, because it does not comply with traditional Indian beliefs about architecture.