New Delhi: French retailer Carrefour SA’s plans to open wholesale stores in India by mid-2009 are likely to be delayed by six-nine months, according to two people close to the development. The delay stems largely from the company’s inability to find a local partner, said the two people, who didn’t want to be named.
The French retailer also laid off about two dozen employees, or about a quarter of its India team, late last year, the two people said. Somesh Dayal, director of marketing who also doubled up as the company’s India spokesman, and at least two more senior executives put in their papers recently, said the people. Dayal couldn’t be reached for comment.
In 2007, Carrefour had said it hoped to sign a deal with a local franchisee by March 2008. Gerard Freizsmuth, then general manager of Carrefour India, said the company would roll out wholesale stores for other retailers and businesses by mid-2009.
Carrefour has said it wanted to go solo in the cash-and-carry business—an area in which India allows 100% foreign ownership—and let the local partner manage its branded franchise outlets.
“As a part of our India strategy, our main focus is to set up the cash-and-carry business,” Carrefour said in an emailed response to questions from Mint. “We have no other comments to offer on the franchised partnership.”
The company said the initial phase of its “India strategy, which involves developing our cash-and-carry business, is on track”. Dayal had quit for personal reasons, it said.
The French retailer is playing catch-up with three of the world’s top four retailers, including US-based Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Britain’s Tesco Plc. and Germany-based Metro AG. These retailers have have either already set shop in India or have lined up partners and plans for the country.
After talking to at least 18 companies and short listing six of them, Carrefour has yet to choose a local partner. The Economic Times reported on Wednesday that Carrefour is in talks with Future Group, the parent company of the country’s largest listed retailer, Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd. Future Group chief executive Kishore Biyani declined to comment on the report.