Bharti Enterprises is set to open its first retail store in the country by the March 2008 and plans to open a minimum of six stores by the end of that year.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and CEO of the Bharti group, on Saturday said the branding process would be completed soon and discussions were on with Bharti’s back-end partner Wal-Mart. Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), he said: "The process is going according to plan and we are looking at a cluster of stores by early 2008. You will see half-a-dozen stores coming up within the year.”
Mittal said during his visit to the US earlier this month as president of a CII delegation, he met Mike Duke, chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated, in Washington separately. Mittal also held a meeting with Carlos Gutierrez, secretary, US Department of Commerce.
Foreign direct investment in multi-brand retailing is not yet allowed in India. Only 51 per cent FDI in single-brand stores and 100 per cent in the cash-and-carry wholesale business are allowed. The existing policy also allows FDI in franchises.
Bharti and Wal-Mart have started recruitment and expect to sort various issues, including legal ones, soon. “We are going ahead with legal issues like brand agreement. A franchise arrangement may take some time, but we are on track," Mittal said.
Last year, the Bharti group had announced an investment of $2.5 billion in its retail venture. According to an agreement with Wal-Mart, Bharti would manage the front-end and the US major would provide back-end and logistics support.
Mittal said US companies were keen on India opening its FDI policy in multi- brand retail chains. “In the beginning they will be happy to see it happening, may be with 26 per cent FDI,” he added.