Lauding the government’s recent discussion paper on allowing foreign direct investment in the country’s retail sector, Raj Jain, president, Wal-Mart India spoke to HT on how the initiative would attract serious players. Excerpts.
Do you feel the government should open retail in a calibrated manner or allow FDI in one go?
We believe it would be better if the Central government allows 100 per cent foreign investment in one go. However, if the government decides to take a phased approach of gradually opening up the sector then also it could bring in a lot of investment from foreign players.
How much does Wal-Mart plan to invest in India?
It is too early to talk about the exact quantum of our investments and moreover the amount will depend on the exact government policy. If the government restricts us to cities with a population of more than 10 lakh, then the number of cities that are open to us will be around 40 but if the government allows to set up stores in cities with over one lakh population then we could enter around 600 cities. Our investment plans would vary accordingly.
What happens to your joint venture with Bharti? Will you rethink about the JV…
We entered the cash & carry retail business along with Bharti where there was no need for a partner. So we would like to continue with Bharti. In fact, we plan to open close to 10 cash & carry stores over the next 18 months.
Do you see the government’s proposal of 50 per cent investment in backend infrastructure as restrictive?
At least in the initial years this should not be a major concern for retailers but a few years down the line when back-end infrastructure is fully developed, if restrictions continue then this could be a stifling factor.