Wal-Mart set to make first foray into India

NEW DELHI, May 29, 2009 (AFP) – The world’s number one retailer Wal-Mart is set to open its first sales venture in India Saturday as part of an ambitious plan to establish a foothold in the country’s vast consumer market. The US discount chain has teamed up with Bharti Enterprises, parent of India’s biggest mobile firm Bharti Airtel, in a wholesale joint venture to be called Best Price Modern Wholesale.

The opening of Wal-Mart’s first “big box” outlet in Amritsar city in the wheat-bowl northern state of Punjab, is a high-stakes one for the US retailer, which has been expanding internationally to grow its revenues.

“India is first of all a country with close to 1.2 billion people and a strongly growing economy which is driven by personal consumption,” said Raj Jain, chief executive of Wal-Mart India.

“There’s a need to start out on a learning curve with the Indian consumer and this is the first significant step in that direction,” he told AFP.

But the entry of multinational retailers into India along with the growth of domestic mass merchandisers has been steeped in controversy amid fears they will drive the country’s 15-million “mom-and-pop” outlets out of business.

Best Price will not be