[Source: BBC News]
A firm owned by Asia’s richest person has struck a deal to open outlets of the British coffee and sandwich chain Pret A Manger across India.
A unit of multi-billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries will run the chain under a franchise agreement.
It marks the first venture by Reliance Brands, which also owns India’s biggest retail chain, into the country’s growing food and drinks industry.
The first outlet is expected to open early next year in Mumbai.
“Our partnership with Pret is rooted in the strong growth potential of both Pret as a brand… also of the food & beverage industry in India,” Darshan Mehta, the managing director of Reliance Brands said in a statement.
“We’re looking forward to working with them on what is our most ambitious global franchise partnership to date,” Pret A Manger’s chief executive Pano Christou added.
Pret A Manger, which means “ready to eat” in French, was founded in London in 1983, with the first shop opening the following year.
After the original company went into liquidation the brand was bought by college friends Sinclair Beecham and Julian Metcalfe, with their first store opening in 1986.
The brand currently has 550 outlets around the world, across nine markets including the UK, US, Europe, and Asia.
Last year, Reliance Industries announced a franchise agreement with the US-based convenience store chain 7-Eleven.
The deal helped to cement the company’s position as India’s largest bricks and mortar retailer.
Mr Ambani has a personal fortune of around $95bn (£78.2bn), according to Forbes magazine.
The 65-year-old’s late father Dhirubhai Ambani founded a textile manufacturer that would eventually become Reliance Industries.
It is now one of India’s largest conglomerates – with businesses including petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecoms and retail.
Mr Ambani is the chairman of Reliance Industries. The Ambani family has a 49% stake in the company.
The family also owns assets in the UK worth tens of millions of pounds.
In 2019, Reliance Brands Limited, which is owned by Mr Ambani, bought the toy retailer Hamleys for an undisclosed sum.
Last year, Reliance Industries bought the historic British country club Stoke Park for £57m.