New Delhi: The retail arm of Reliance Industries Ltd, Reliance Retail Ltd plans to open 200 wholesale stores by March to sell fresh farm produce to pushcart vendors, small shopkeepers and hawkers, a move aimed at pleasing unorganized groups that have been protesting the company’s entry into the organized retail business.
The company already operates such stores in Hyderabad, Jaipur and Punjab.
Called Ranger Farm Stores, these have till now been used as so called “feeder links” to its retail shops which are branded Reliance Fresh.
The company now plans to use these to “feed” or supply small retailers and open similar shops in New Delhi and other regions in the country by the middle of next month.
It plans to open 50 stores in three months and expand the number to 200 across the country by March 2009. These 2,000 sq. ft shops will sell fresh produce sourced directly from farmers. “It (opening wholesale stores) indicates that we are open to service everyone from consumers to mom-and-pop stores and rehriwalas (street vendors),” said a senior company official who did not want to be named.
An internal unit of Reliance Retail called Reliance Agri Produce Distribution Ltd headed by Sanjeev Asthana will spearhead the wholesale initiative.
Reliance Fresh stores are operated by a separate unit headed by Gunender Kapur. Asthana declined comment.
Reliance’s latest roll-out is aimed at assuaging the controversy caused by Reliance Fresh as the grocery chain has invited the ire of small vendors fearing loss of business.
“It (this initiative) is to circumvent and clear that impression,” the official said.
Last year, the company had to exit India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, after the state government asked it to shut all its Reliance Fresh stores there claiming their operations could trigger violence.
The company also faced protests in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, among other states.
The protests were orchestrated by groups opposing the entry of large corporations into the country’s $12 billion (Rs52,560 crore) organized retail market that is expected to grow to $165 billion in 10 years.