Bharti Retail plans 30 stores in NCR in a year

Bharti Retail plans 30 stores in NCR in a year

New Delhi: After starting out in Punjab and Haryana in its first year, Bharti Retail Pvt. Ltd plans to open stores in and around New Delhi by March, marking its entry into a major metro.

The company, promoted by owners of Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest mobile phone company by subscribers, plans to roll out 30 stores in the National Capital Region, or NCR, by the end of 2009, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans.

The retailer has 20 outlets since launching in April.

“These are company confidential details that we do not share," a Bharti spokesperson wrote in response to emailed questions about store opening plans for the NCR, which includes New Delhi.

Bharti has already lined up a property in Kirti Nagar, a suburb in the western New Delhi, for a convenience outlet and signed up a site for a supermarket in the eastern suburb of Ghaziabad, while other properties are currently under negotiation, said this same person who didn’t want to be identified.

Vikas Saxena, manager retail for Opulent Mall in Ghaziabad, confirmed that Bharti Retail has taken about 35,000 sq. ft there. The stores planned for NCR will be a combination of grocery stores, supermarket—ranging between 25,000 sq. ft and 40,000 sq. ft—and hypermarkets of at least 75,000 sq. ft, the person said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, is Bharti Retail’s technical adviser as well as its partner in a separate 50:50 wholesale joint venture that plans to open some 15 so-called cash-and-carry stores in the next seven years that don’t directly sell to individual household consumers. Bharti Retail made a low-key entry into India’s fledgling yet promising retail industry with three convenience stores in Ludhiana, hometown of the parent company’s founders, the Mittal family.

Bharti Retail operates 19 convenience stores called Easyday in Punjab and Haryana, and one supermarket of about 25,000 sq. ft called Easyday Market that the company opened earlier this month in Ludhiana.

Bharti has been cautiously rolling out stores even as rivals, including Reliance Retail Ltd, Aditya Birla Group and Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd, have opened hundreds of stores each over the same time.

Rajan Bharti Mittal, who is spearheading the group’s retail business, recently said the company’s roll-out is “as per plans". Mittal said the company’s larger hypermarket format will come up only next year but declined to specify when and which city. Bharti plans to invest up to $2.5 billion (Rs11,825 crore) to open stores spread over 10 million sq. ft nationwide by 2015.

Bharti’s plans come at a time when a general economic slowdown is prompting branded retailers to prune expansions, cut jobs, shutter stores and make strategic shifts to more lucrative retail models.