Tesco talks to enter Indian retail market to close Oct 10: report

Chandi Dharmaratne

NEW DELHI, Sept 11, 2006 (AFP) – British supermarket giant Tesco and Bharti Enterprises are to wrap up talks by October 10 that could bring the first overseas grocery chain to Indian consumers, a report said Monday. “Planning is underway and a team is carrying out extensive research and is testing various models,” Bharti chairman and managing director Sunil Mittal told the Business Standard daily newspaper.

The daily said the group, which includes India’s biggest telecom firm Bharti AirTel, could become a franchisee for Tesco Plc, although the full strategy remained a secret.

“We had set a 90-day time frame (for talks) and that ends on October 10,” said Mittal.

India has allowed 51 percent foreign direct investment in retail stores that sell only a single brand, such as Reebok and Nokia, while global retail chains like Wal-Mart are still banned from such operations.

The firms however can open stores via franchise deals with Indian partners.

The Business Standard said Bharti intended to mix large and small outlets as well as hyper-markets and the rollout would start in and around the capital New Delhi and the Punjab city of Ludhiana.

Bharti and Tesco already have a business relationship, with