Reliance Retail in talks to acquire IBD

Reliance Retail in talks to acquire IBD

Mumbai: Reliance Retail Ltd is close to finalizing a deal to acquire India Book Distributors (Bombay) Ltd, or IBD, one of the largest book distributors in the country, to give a boost to its fledgling book retailing venture, according to three business associates of IBD who are familiar with the matter, but did not wish to be identified because talks between the two companies are still on.

A spokesperson for Reliance Industries, of which Reliance Retail is a part, said the company did not wish to comment on “market speculations".

“The business is changing so fast that anything could be possible, but I have no comment to make at this moment. All I can say is that we are top suppliers to Reliance’s book ventures as we are to every new book retailing venture," said IBD’s joint managing director, Kamal Jagwani.

IBD, which is a large player in the country’s English-language book and magazine distribution business, has seven branches across India.

“There are no negotiations at the moment with Reliance, though there are strong rumours in the market. Having said that, there is a fit between their ambitions and our business since we have established contacts with publishers abroad and know what sells and does not sell in India. Moreover, we are crucial to the book trade and as sporadic publishers we are aware of the publishing side of the business too," said Anthony Joseph, chief operating officer, IBD.

The deal, if it materializes, will give the retailer a national footprint in the book distribution business and serve as the perfect backward integration for its new book retailing venture. A Reliance executive, who did not wish to be identified, said the company will likely use multiple formats to sell books with bookstores being just one of them.

“We will, of course, have to take book sales online too," this person added.

IBD has an online store and a corporate marketing cell that advises companies on using books and magazines in their marketing, customer loyalty and training programmes. It also runs the Fountainhead chain of bookstores, which has a presence in Chennai and Bangalore.

Reliance’s book retailing venture rolled out in Bangalore on Monday. Branded Reliance TimeOut, the outlet also sells music, stationery, toys and gifts. Reliance TimeOut has more than 30,000 titles sourced from national and international publishers.

The company’s next TimeOut store will be in Gurgaon. This will be a 40,000 sq. ft outlet in a mall, and will open for business by the end of December. This will be followed by stores in Coimbatore, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, the Reliance executive said.

The Indian book retailing business has attracted the attention of large companies in the past two years. The Tata group’s Trent Ltd acquired a majority stake in bookstore chain Landmark. Another retailer, Shopper’s Stop owns the Crossword chain and Future Group runs the Depot chain of book stores.