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South Asian Behemoths Ink Lingerie Deal

Two of South Asia’s largest apparel players have just struck a deal.

This week, India’s Reliance Retail Private Limited acquired Amante, the retail lingerie business of Sri Lanka’s largest apparel manufacturer MAS Holdings.

Amante, which is manufactured in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, has three brands, Amanté, Ultimo and every dé by amanté, and has been sold in India and Sri Lanka for the past 14 years. It boasts more than 2,500 doors across India, straddling different formats including stand-alone boutiques and multibrand outlets, as well as e-commerce.

With the 100 percent acquisition, Reliance will continue to leverage the sustainable manufacturing and design-to-delivery capabilities of MAS Holdings, which has an annual turnover of $2 billion and is the largest apparel and textile manufacturer in South Asia. Innerwear is a focus, with MAS Intimates one of the company’s largest divisions—manufacturing for brands including Victoria’s Secret, PINK, La Senza, Calvin Klein, Marks & Spencer, Gap, Athleta, Hanesbrands, Soma, Thinx, H&M, MeUndies and Tchibo. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, is India’s largest retailer.

“This was a business MAS built from the ground up, leveraging years of expertise in the lingerie business, so we are excited to see it transition to new shareholders and a parent organization that, without doubt, will enable the brand and the company to thrive,” said MAS co-founder Ajay Amalean.

The way forward appears to be strategic growth for the brand in a rapidly expanding market. According to a report by consulting firm Redseer earlier this year, the local women’s innerwear market is expected to double to $12 billion by 2025. Driving this change are rising incomes, a growing number of women in the workforce and better brand awareness. The report cited the fast growth in smaller cities at 1.5 times that of metro areas, which include New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai.

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“I think the first thing is that Amante was quite a big deal when MAS initially set up MAS brands and the Amante label, and it was seen as the poster child of Sri Lanka setting up its own brand and going into retail. In that sense, the fact that this brand was picked up one of India’s most prominent businesses as part of their retail expansion strategy is seen in Sri Lanka as quite a big deal,” said Anushka Wijesinha, who has worked on the bilateral trade and investment between India and Sri Lanka, and is co-founder and CEO of think tank The Centre for a Smart Future.

“For me, the other big implication is that we are highly focused on the manufacturing goods in Sri Lanka that consumers in the West buy, and having a large conglomerate and retailer in South Asia acquiring the brand of another south Asian company is quite significant because it is an acknowledgement that there is a market for this product in our region and it is not just for consumers in the West. It is about the shift our manufacturers have made to the South Asian consumer. MAS is known for its high-quality lingerie, and bras are one of the more complex pieces of clothing to make as it is well known, and MAS’ lingerie capabilities are legendary. It shows an acknowledgement of these skills, but also the recognition of this middle class in South Asia and India,” he added.

Amante has positioned itself as a strong physical retailer, a space that Reliance Retail, with more than 12,000 stores across India knows well, a point noted by Mahesh Amalean, chairman of MAS Holdings. “The acquisition by Reliance has ensured that Amante will benefit from Reliance’s scale and retail expertise. The brand we created and our employees in India and Sri Lanka will continue to benefit from being a part of a well-established retail company,” he said in a statement.

Reliance Retail has been growing itself, having raised $6.4 billion in 2020 by bringing on investors including KKR & Co. Inc, Silver Lake Partners and others for a 10 percent stake in the company. It is also looking to expand across categories. Last year, the company bought a 15 percent stake in the online lingerie retailer Zivame.