Walmart, world's largest retailer, had informed the industry ministry last year that it is comfortable with India allowing 49% FDI in multi-brand retail, in view of "political sensitivity" in the country.
The Union Cabinet in its decision of November 24, which has since been put on hold, permitted 51% FDI in the multi-brand retail, well above expectations of the Walmart and its Indian joint venture partner - Bharti Group.
In its response to the discussion paper by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Walmart India President Raj Jain, also Managing Director of its joint venture with Bharti, said that the US giant would ideally like 100% FDI. However, for starters, it is comfortable with 49%, he added.
"Bharti Walmart recognizes, however, the political sensitivity around the retail sector. Recognizing the government's stand to adopt a calibrated approach, we would endorse a position where as a first step, multi-brand retail is opened up at 49%," Jain said in the memorandum submitted to the DIPP on July 30, last year.
Similar views were expressed the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) which has around 500 members, 95% of whom are the US firms with operations in India. "... given the government's desire to have a calibrated approach, Amcham recognizes the importance of a phased change of allowing the first step of 49% FDI," it said.
However, French retailer Carrefour and the US-India Business Council pitched for 51% foreign stake in multi-brand retail right from the beginning.
FDI in retailing was permitted in China in 1992. Foreign retailers were initially permitted to trade only in six Provinces and SEZs and foreign stake was initially restricted to 49%.