(Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries’ retail arm has picked up 96 per cent stake in online furniture retailer Urban Ladder for over Rs 1.82 billion ($24.43 million).

“Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries (RIL) , has acquired equity shares of Urban Ladder Home Decor Solutions Pvt Ltd for a cash consideration of Rs 1.82 billion,” RIL said in a statement on Saturday.

The investment represents 96 per cent holding in the equity share capital of Urban Ladder, it added.

“RRVL has a further option of acquiring the balance stake, taking its shareholding to 100 per cent of the equity share capital of Urban Ladder,” it said.

Besides, RRVL has proposed to make a further investment of up to Rs 750 million in Urban Ladder.

“The further investment is expected to be completed by December 2023,” it said.

This acquisition will help RIL in bolstering its presence in the fast-growing e-commerce segment and widening the bouquet of consumer products provided by it as it looks to compete with e-commerce majors as Amazon and Flipkart.

“The aforesaid investment will further enable the group’s digital and new commerce initiatives and widen the bouquet of consumer products provided by the group, while enhancing user engagement and experience across its retail offerings,” the statement said.

According to RIL, no governmental or regulatory approvals were required for the investment.

In August, RIL had acquired a majority stake in digital pharma marketplace Netmeds for around Rs 6.20 billion.

RIL, which has been on a fund raising spree by selling stakes in RRVL, had earlier this month announced Rs 95.55 billion investment from Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, taking total fundraise in the last two months to Rs 472.65 billion.

The investment had valued RRVL at a pre-money equity value of Rs 4.587 trillion.

Reliance Retail Ltd, a subsidiary of RRVL, operates India’s largest, fast-growing retail business witnessing close to 640 million footfalls at its 12,000 stores across the country.

Amazon, Reliance and Walmart Inc’s Flipkart are locked in a battle to gain market share in India, where millions of middle-class customers are adopting online purchase of food and groceries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The booming e-commerce market in the country will be worth $86 billion by 2024, according to research firm Forrester.

The stakes are particularly high for Amazon, which believes India is a big growth market after shutting its online store in China last year.

RRVL had previously raised Rs 377.10 billion from leading global investors including Silver Lake, KKR, General Atlantic, Mubadala, GIC, TPG and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).

Urban Ladder was co-founded by Ashish Goel (CEO) and Rajiv Srivatsa (COO) in July 2012.

In 2014, Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata had also invested in Urban Ladder, though the amount was not disclosed. In the past, the company had also raised funds from venture capital funds such as Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners, Kalaari Capital and hedge fund Steadview Capital.

Besides online, the company has  presence in offline channels and operates a chain of retail stores in several cities across India as Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, NCR, Pune and Hyderabad.

Urban Ladder’s audited turnover in 2018-19 was Rs 4.34 billion and profit was Rs 494.1 million.