Reliance Retail inks deal with Samsung for after-sales service

Reliance Retail has signed a deal with Samsung that will see the Indian chain manage after-sales service of Samsung devices. This signals a new chapter in Mukesh Ambani’s retail ventureas it looks to enter into deals with the top manufacturers of electronic, computer and mobile devices to become the country’s largest one-stop consumer electronics installation, maintenance and service venture.

The first of such kind has Samsung and Reliance’s retail division launching ‘resQ.’ This program is under a trial run in Pune. A source close to Reliance said that this new program is part of the bigger agenda that the company has in mind and will play a critical role when 4G services are launched by Reliance Jio Infocomm. “However, it will not be easy,” this person said. “It is a people-driven industry where Reliance has to constantly skill and re-skill technicians and keep them motivated,” he said. Nearly 2,000 people are already working at Reliance resQ and the company wants to raise the headcount to 10,000 in two years. According to this source, the inspiration for this might have come from Best Buy – an electronics retail giant from the US. Best Buy’s ‘Geek Squad’ is a tech support and service platform that deals with after-sales service.

Some sources say that talks are already in place between the retail arm of one of India’s largest Private Sector Companies and several giants of the electronics industry such as LG, Videocon, Godrej, etc., to provide after-sales service. The resQ unit currently provides service back-up only for products sold through the group’s electronic retailing venture, Reliance Digital. It wants to extend this to all kinds of warranty and out-of-warranty support for products purchased from other retailers as well. The resQ plan, which was launched in the last quarter, provides a comprehensive, all-inclusive comprehensive homecare plan for all electronics, home appliances and digital products in a household.

After contacting the retail company, a spokesperson said that resQ plans to offer its service expertise through various initiatives and partnerships in order to drive better value for consumers and brands. A Samsung India spokesperson, however, declined to comment.While the industry and retail space as a whole are looking forward to seeing how this system works, industry experts remain doubtful about the viability of the same. The main doubt arises from the fact that Reliance’s plan to forge alliances with company’s pan-India is highly ambitious given the huge shortage of qualified, skilled staff. Also, some people at a leading appliance maker have also expressed doubts regarding the same.

A source on the condition of anonymity said, “There is a risk attached since the service provider in this case can distort the consumer’s brand loyalty by pitching for other brand products,” indicating that their company intends to the existing network rather than work with a company handling multiple brands. Another point which could deter the whole momentum that Reliance is building is the fact that most electronic companies are investing to ensure direct contact with consumers.

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