Bharti Wal-Mart's plan to open its first cash-and-carry store in the country at Amritsar tomorrow has been postponed due to law and order problem in Punjab following violence sparked by the attack on a Sikh temple in Vienna, Austria.
"Due to the suspension of commercial activity in Amritsar, the Bharti Wal-Mart store opening has been delayed. We will open the store as soon as it (commercial activity) resumes," a Bharti Wal-Mart spokesman said.
Bharti Wal-Mart Pvt Ltd, the 50:50 joint venture between Bharti Enterprises Ltd and the US-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc, had planned to open 10-15 cash-and-carry stores in India by 2015. The company had last year announced that its wholesale stores would be opened under the brand name of 'BestPrice Modern Wholesale' and each store would have a size of 50,000-1,00,000 square feet.
An official at Bharti Wal-Mart, the joint venture of the American retailer and India's Bharti Enterprises, said she could not say when the launch would now happen.
"It's too early to say when. We just have to wait and watch," Arti Singh, vice president for corporate affairs, said. "Hopefully the situation will settle down quickly and we'll launch soon."
India's fragmented $500-billion retail industry is seen rising to more than $800 billion by 2013, but less than 5 per cent of the market is in the hands of modern retailers.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer by sales, and many of its largest competitors long have coveted access to India, whose retail industry made up almost entirely of mom-and-pop shops. Indian rules don't allow multiple-brand retailers such as Wal-Mart to sell directly to consumers, but they can run wholesale operations and provide back-end support to Indian retailers.
The joint venture with Bharti was announced in 2006, but ran into opposition from the Left parties amid fears it might hurt the livelihoods of millions of small shop owners. However, with the Left no longer able to influence decisions after the recent election, the plans of other retailers like Carrefour SA, Marks & Spencer Group PLC and Tesco PLC to open shop in India have got a boost.