Reliance Retail to sell connected homes concept

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail has entered into an agreement with Microsoft to launch the ‘connected homes’ concept.

Reliance Retail’s consumer durable and IT format, Reliance Digital, is planning to launch the concept at its upcoming store in Gurgaon in the NCR region.

Tata’s Infinity Retail and Future Group’s e-Zone have already tied up with Microsoft to launch the concept as a pilot project at their stores.

Connected homes offers users the opportunity to connect all their consumer durables, electronic and IT products at home with their personal computer or laptops through Microsoft software such as Windows Vista and X Box, among others. The computer and the products are connected through wireless technology.

Reliance Digital will showcase the Microsoft products in a 500 sqft area in the store. Initially, it will be a pilot project and, depending on the success, the company is planning to open many such kiosks at Reliance Digital stores, which is eyeing revenues of Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 200 billion) by 2011, according to company sources.

At present, Reliance Digital has three stores and will have two more by March and aims to have nearly 50 stores by the end of the next financial year.

“If the pilot project succeeds, we will have the connected homes concept in all our stores,” said a Reliance Retail executive.

Reliance Retail has also tied up with Apple to open iStores in the country.

iStores sell Apple products such as Macintosh, i-Mac, iPod, and software and support services. Reliance Retail has three iStores and plans to launch 40 more in the next 18 months.

Tata’s Infiniti Retail has tied up with Microsoft to launch MS@Retail, a ‘connected homes’ concept at Croma outlets from October 2007. It was envisaged as a shop-in-shop pilot kiosk at Croma’s Juhu outlet.

“After the launch of the concept, we have seen a huge surge in our laptop sales. We are also planning to take it to our other stores,” said Ajith Joshi, CEO, Croma.

Croma has nine stores now and plans to add nine more in the next couple of months.

“The connected homes concept has gained popularity in the US and it will catch up in India, too, as users are benefiting from its usage,” said Joshi.

Future Group’s e-Zone, which tied up with Microsoft in January 2008 for its Hyderabad store, is taking the concept to its 28 other stores across the country, starting with a 30,000 sq ft store it is planning at Bangalore.

According to Manoj Kumar, CEO, e-Zone, “After the launch of the pilot, the sale of Microsoft products have gone up by five times. We are planning to take it to all our stores soon,” Kumar said. The company is planning to set up nearly 110 new e-Zones in the next 18 months.

After the success with Croma and e-Zone, Microsoft is believed to be taking the concept to all the major cities of India and ensuring its presence in major outlets.

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