When the world’s economy is equally collapsing, the only Indian business tycoon to survive this is Radhakishan Damani, who controls Avenue Supermarkets Ltd. His business has surged 5% this year to $10.2 billion.
Shares of Avenue Supermarts, which contribute nearly all of the wealth to Damani’s net worth, have advanced 18% this year.
Damani, who was raised in a one-room apartment in a Mumbai tenement block, has seen his wealth swell at a time when a stocks rout has shaved more than 32% off the net worth of his billionaire compatriots Mukesh Ambani and Uday Kotak on fears that the pandemic will gut economic growth. Damani’s supermarket chain, known for its thrifty cost structure, gained from panic buying of household essentials after India decided to place its 1.3 billion people under a three-week lockdown last month.
“People have been buying in panic and hoarding during the lockdown that drove the sales, making the company’s share a perfect hedge amid rout,” Arun Kejriwal, director at Kris, an investment advisory firm in Mumbai. “Their unique no-frills model and also choosing to operate from locations outside malls, will help them to tide over the situation.”
Avenue Supermarts’ and Damani’s prospects are bright as long as the supply chain for India’s fast-moving consumer goods are not disrupted. With trucks coming to a near-standstill, any extension of the lockdown can potentially empty out D-Mart’s shelves.
For now, Damani’s stores are managing to refill their racks.
There are very few listed retailers that are better placed than Avenue Supermarts to offer “a hedge in this crisis,” said Vikraman P.N. of Finnoviti Consulting Pvt. “They cater to the rising demand for consumer staples and they have used their cash flows over the years to invest in a robust supply chain.”