The retail arm of Reliance Industries is in talks with local and global high-end designers and artisans to form strategic partnerships for ethnic handicrafts, fusion clothing, jewellery, blue pottery, silverware, home decor, and carpets among others, the executives said requesting anonymity. In addition, Reliance will link Swadesh with JioMart, its e-commerce marketplace, for the venture. JioMart, which has tie-ups with seven state government emporiums to sell on its platform, plans to onboard more than one million artisans and weavers by 2025 for Swadesh, the executives said. The company is also looking to develop JioMart Haat villages for the new venture.
“Reliance is following the same strategy for Swadesh, as it did for ready-to-wear pret and couture fashion – of inking strategic tie-ups with premium designers. In the case of Swadesh, the tie-ups will include artisans and handicraft makers,” said one of the executives cited above.
In the Western lifestyle and fashion space, Reliance Retail currently has tie-ups with close to a dozen global luxury designer brands including Versace, Balenciaga, Armani, Jimmy Choo, Gas and Hugo Boss. The Swadesh stores will be large format, roughly 30,000-35,000 square feet each, in Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mumbai, and will be company-owned, the executive said.
Reliance Retail piloted its first ethnic handicraft Swadesh store in Mumbai earlier this year at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Culture Centre. The handicraft venture is currently working with around 10,000 artisans, the executive said.
An email seeking comments from a spokesperson for Reliance Retail remained unanswered till press time. Nita Ambani, founder and chairperson of Reliance Foundation, said in an address at the company’s recent AGM that Reliance Foundation skilling centres for artisans, a new venture under the group, will create “capacity building to transform the crafts sector by creating livelihoods of Indian artisans across the country”.
While the handicraft sector remains largely fragmented and unorganised, it is a rapidly growing industry, and growth is being fuelled by micro-entrepreneurs, handicraft start-ups, direct-to-consumer (D2C) players, and state and centre-level craft bodies. Researcher IMARC Group forecasted the sector to reach $6.21 billion by 2028, from $3.96 billion in 2022.