Tesco has set out a plan to become the first foreign retailer in India to run multi-brand outlets, with an application to invest in local operator Trent Hypermarket.

The UK retail giant is looking to own 50% of Trent Hypermarket Limited, a retail subsidiary of Indian conglomerate Tata Group.

Tesco has submitted the plan to India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board. If the application is approved, Tesco and Tata’s listed retail arm Trent will each own 50% of Trent Hypermarket Limited, which runs the Star Bazaar chain in India.

In an announcement to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Trent said the two companies would look to expand the Star Bazaar chain, which has stores in Maharashtra and Karnataka. 

Tesco and Tata have worked in together in India since 2008. Under wholesale and franchise agreements, Tesco has supplied goods to the Star Bazaar chain.

Foreign companies were prohibited from investing in multi-brand retail outlets in India and overseas retailers like Tesco sought wholesale and franchise deals.

However, last year, India said it would allow international investors to own up to 51% of multi-brand outlets.

Trevor Masters, the CEO of Tesco’s business in Asia, said today (17 December) India was “such an exciting opportunity”.

“The incomes and expectations of consumers have changed dramatically in the last five years and will continue to do so – India is still one of the fastest growing economies in the world,” Masters said.

“If [the application] were successful, it could open the way to Tesco investing directly and forming a partnership from our existing relationship with the Tata Group. That partnership would mean working closely every day to bring more of the benefits and capabilities we have developed over decades to Indian consumers, manufacturers and the supply chain.

“We believe combining our global retail expertise and Tata’s unrivalled understanding of the Indian market has tremendous potential and we’re excited to be exploring ways to do more together.”

Noel Tata, vice chairman of Trent, added: “The application is a positive step forward in the relationship between the Tata Group and Tesco. We believe that our understanding of the Indian market, coupled with Tesco’s unparalleled global retail expertise will allow us to leverage the tremendous potential of the market to the benefit of all stakeholders.”