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Biyani sits easy after FDI policy

business Updated: Sep 17, 2012 01:17 IST
Vivek Sinha

The government has finally moved on allowing 51% foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. And sitting pretty to take advantage of this is the Kishore Biyani-led Future Group. India's retail baron has already structured his business model in a manner that makes forging tie-ups with foreign retailers relatively easy. This can be it through selling off specific verticals, offloading stakes, raising money or expanding business ventures.

"I welcome the government's move to allow foreign investment in muti-brand retail," said Biyani, founder and group CEO of Future Group, soon after the government announced the cabinet decision on Friday. "It will help us forge tie-ups with foreign firms."

Biyani refused details, saying "it is too early to comment on specifics at the moment."

Biyani is keen to raise money for further expansion of his business ventures rather than sell controlling stake of his firms.

Biyani may bide his time to sign joint ventures with foreign players. "At this stage it is too early to say what will be Kishore Biyani's next move," said Arvind Singhal, chairman, technopak Advisors. "Resistance against FDI is building up. And theoretically if some states do accept FDI, a foreign player looking at an alliance with the Biyanis will still be skeptical, unless he is looking at select pockets."

There is however no denying that his group is well poised. Consider this: Future Group has 10 retail ventures, each as a separate firm with separate divisional heads and infrastructure. The companies range from grocery (low-frill neighbourhood to hypermarket) to apparel to high-end food, electronics, sporting goods and home goods.

The company had initiated talks with French retail giant Carrefour and Japan's Lawson for a tie-up for its flagship BigBazaar retail stores. Those negotiations could well be revived, now that new policy framework has been firmly set in place.