Reliance Retail acquires controlling stake in Just Dial for $469 million

Reliance Retail said on Friday it has acquired a controlling stake in 25-year-old Indian search and discovery firm Just Dial for $469 million.

The Indian retail giant, which leads the market, said it has acquired a 41% stake in the publicly listed Just Dial for $469 million and will make an open offer to acquire an additional 26% stake later. VSS Mani, founder and chief executive of Just Dial, will continue his leadership role at the firm, both the companies said in a joint press release.

Just Dial offers local search and e-commerce services through its website, mobile apps and telephone line. Users in India can inquire about local plumbers, details for hotels and housekeeping services among other things by just dialing 8888888888.

The decades-old firm — which prior to entering the public markets raised about $102 million from Tiger Global, Elevation Capital, Sequoia Capital India, Sapphire Ventures and Nalanda Capital — has built a massive database whose results are so useful and relevant that they often populate top search queries on Google and other search engines.

The service is free for users, but Just Dial charges businesses and individual service providers a fee for listing.

Screengrab of Just Dial website.

“Nearly 25 years ago, we had a vision to build a connected single platform dedicated to providing fast, free, reliable and comprehensive information to our users and connect buyers to sellers,” said Mani.

“Our vision has evolved to not only provide search and discovery but drive commerce across merchants through our B2B platform and enable further consumer to merchant commerce given our platform engagement. Our strategic partnership with Reliance enables us to realize this vision and transform the business going forward.”

Just Dial’s acquisition is one of many Reliance Industries — or its subsidiaries including telecom giant Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail that together raised over $27 billion last year from marquee investors including Facebook and Google — has made in recent quarters.

In August, Reliance acquired a 60% stake in pharma marketplace Netmeds’ parent firm Vitalic for about $83.2 million. In November, it acquired online furniture startup Urban Ladder for $24.4 million in a distress sale.

Last year, Reliance Retail also entered into a $3.4 billion deal with Future Group to buy several of India’s second-largest retail chain’s businesses. The deal, which has yet to close, is at the centre of lawsuits with American e-commerce giant Amazon.

“Reliance is excited to partner with Justdial and Mr. VSS Mani, a first-generation entrepreneur, who has created a strong business through his business acumen and perseverance,” said Isha Ambani, director of Reliance Retail, in a statement.

“The investment in Just Dial underlines our commitment to New Commerce by further boosting the digital ecosystem for millions of our partner merchants, micro, small and medium enterprises. We look forward to working with the highly experienced management team of Just Dial as we further expand the business going forward.”