A panel of Indian bureaucrats recommended allowing foreign companies to own up to 51 per cent in multi-brand retail stores, according to a finance ministry official with direct knowledge of the matter.
The panel has proposed a minimum investment of $100 million (Dh367 million) by overseas retailers in the world's second-most populous country, the official said, requesting not to be identified before a public announcement. "Finer details" are being worked out and the cabinet will take a final decision after consultations, according to the official.
The recommendations by the group may pave the way for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Paris-based Carrefour SA to open supermarkets in the South Asian nation where Business Monitor International says retail sales may almost double to $785 billion in 2015 from $396 billion in 2011.
"We'll see a lot of new retailers coming in, who will be keen on looking at India," Kishore Biyani, managing director at India's largest listed retailer Pantaloon Retail Ltd, said in an interview to Bloomberg-UTV. "It looks like a positive step. The industry needs money and the industry needs to grow."
Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Cheshunt, England-based Tesco Plc have been lobbying for the chance to sell products to India's 1.2 billion people, arguing they will lower prices and provide the scale that can improve local food networks. About 40 per cent of India's fruit and vegetables rot before they can be sold because of a lack of cold-storage facilities and poor transport infrastructure.
"Inflation remains stubbornly high and food waste is a major concern because of limited cold storage facilities," said Natalie Berg, co-global research director at Planet Retail in London. "A relaxation of FDI would enable the global retailers to invest in technology and bring efficiencies to the market, ultimately leading to lower prices for consumers."
Wholesale-price inflation in India accelerated to an average 9.6 per cent in 2010 and 2011, from 2.4 per cent in 2009, as food and fuel prices rose. The central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate 10 times starting March 2010 to rein in gains.
"We're following closely the potential evolution of legislation in India," Carrefour spokeswoman Florence Baranes- Cohen based in Paris said in an emailed statement on Thursday. "We are convinced that Carrefour can contribute to modernize distribution in India, to develop partnerships with local producers and make the supply chain more efficient."
Arti Singh, senior vice-president for corporate affairs for Wal-Mart's India operations in New Delhi, declined to comment.
India currently allows 51 per cent ownership in retail outlets selling only one brand and 100 per cent in cash-and-carry stores.
Should the Cabinet agree to the proposal it may anger small shopkeepers who say they will be forced out of business, potentially putting millions of jobs at risk, and add to political opposition to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ruling Congress party. The government doesn't need approval from parliament to change retail investment laws.
From / Gulf News