Explainer – Amazon’s battle with Reliance for India retail supremacy


NEW DELHI (Reuters) – For greater than a yr, Amazon.com Inc and India’s Future Group have been locked in a fancy authorized stand-off that has stalled Future’s $3.4 billion sale of belongings to rival Reliance Industries , the nation’s greatest conglomerate.

After buying and selling barbs in courtrooms for months, Amazon and Future unexpectedly agreed on March 3 to carry discussions to resolve their dispute.

Here’s what the dispute, seen as key to deciding who will get an higher hand in one of many world’s quickest-rising retail markets, is all about and what led to the sudden change in tone.


In 2019, Amazon and Future, quantity two participant in India behind market chief Reliance, turned enterprise companions when the U.S. firm invested $200 million in a unit of the Indian group.

That deal, Amazon argues, got here with non-compete clauses that prohibited Future from promoting retail belongings to sure rivals, together with Reliance, run by one among India’s richest males, Mukesh Ambani. The deal additionally included clauses for settlement of any disputes beneath guidelines laid down by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

But in 2020, Future – hit exhausting by the COVID-19 pandemic – determined to promote belongings to Reliance.

Amazon then approached Singapore arbitrators and efficiently stopped the sale. Both events have additionally challenged one another with lawsuits in Indian courts, together with the Supreme Court, because the “seat of arbitration” stays in New Delhi and Indian legislation governs the proceedings.


Amazon argues numerous agreements signed in 2019 with Future gave it particular rights over Future’s retail belongings, a few of which it had additionally hoped to finally personal ought to India’s guidelines for international traders be eased. The potential Future-Reliance deal “destroys” the latter prospect, the U.S. firm has stated.

Future denies any wrongdoing, saying Amazon is illegally looking for to exert management on Future’s retail enterprise. Future Retail – the group’s flagship retail arm – says it faces liquidation and its greater than 27,000 staff can turn out to be jobless if the Reliance deal fails.

Both sides have deployed a battery of legal professionals and high Indian authorized companies are concerned within the excessive-profile matter. Two legal professionals who previously occupied the place of Solicitor General of India have performed a key function in arguing for Amazon and Future.


At stake is whether or not Amazon can turn out to be an even bigger pressure in a $900 billion retail market, with 1.3 billion shoppers, than Reliance.

Reliance has 1,100 supermarkets, whereas Future has round 1,500. Both are increasing quick into e-commerce, however the Future deal will instantly increase the retail footprint of Reliance, which has attracted marquee international traders within the enterprise.

For its half, Amazon has invested $6.5 billion in India, which it counts as a key development market the place it’s a main e-commerce participant. The Future partnership had already allowed Amazon to spice up its on-line portfolio of grocery deliveries by integrating the Indian firm’s shops on its web site.

Keeping Future away from Reliance chimes with Amazon’s efforts to fight billionaire Ambani’s development plans. In one confidential authorized submitting, Amazon stated Reliance’s consolidated place with Future “will additional prohibit competitors within the Indian retail market”.


Future final yr complained to India’s antitrust company that Amazon was making incorrect and contradictory submissions concerning the intent of the 2019 deal.

Amazon stated it by no means hid any info, however final December the watchdog suspended its approval of the 2019 deal with Future, saying there was “a deliberate design on the a part of Amazon to suppress the precise scope” of the deal and its curiosity in Future’s retail companies.

In a setback for the U.S. big, an Indian courtroom in January halted the Singapore arbitration proceedings between the 2 sides in mild of the antitrust choice.


In a sudden transfer on Feb. 25, Reliance, which had not performed a public function within the dispute, began executing a de facto takeover of some 500 Future shops that signify the crown jewels of its retail community.

Reliance had assumed lots of the leases held by money-strapped Future and has now moved to take over possession citing missed rental funds.

That spooked Amazon, sources say. On March 3, Amazon cited takeover of outlets and prolonged an olive department throughout a Supreme Court listening to, saying the “whirlpool” of litigation should finish. Future agreed to the talks, that are at the moment ongoing.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi and Abhirup Roy in Mumbai; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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