Dean Best

Wal-Mart puts down marker in India

By: Dean Best - 21 September 2012 16:01

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Late last night UK time, the Indian government formally issued a notice to confirm reform of regulations on foreign investment in the country's retail sector would be implemented. A few hours later, an interview with Wal-Mart emerged in which it outlined its plans for expansion in the emerging market.

Scott Price, chief executive of Wal-Mart's operations in Asia, told The Wall Street Journal the US retail giant expects to open its first consumer-facing stores in India (where it already has a wholesale venture with local conglomerate Bharti Enterprises) in the next two years.

Price said it would take 12 to 18 months to open retail stores. However, he cautioned against expectations that India, where the idea of allowing foreign investment in multi-brand outlets has met with protests from politicians and small traders, would see a wave of investment. The Indian government has allowed individual states to decide whether to allow foreign-backed multi-brand outlets and some have publicly opposed the plans.

"We will commit to retail in India," Price said. "But this idea that the gates have been opened and there's going to be a flood [of investment] is overwrought."

India's reform has made business headlines around the world in the last week and was a hot topic at the World's Retail Congress in London.

Bharti chief Rajan Bharti Mittal and Rakesh Biyani, joint MD of Indian retailer Future Group, expressed their belief the reforms would be good for India's retail sector.

just-food interviewed Biyani on the sidelines of the event, which you can read in full here. His comments on the prospect of competition from the likes of Wal-Mart and Tesco, plus on whether Future Group, which owns Pantaloon Retail, would join forces with an overseas retailer make for interesting reading.

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Wal-Mart puts down marker in India

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