Bharti: The Shadow Wal-Mart

Ideas and Issues International Personal Writings

Delhi      In almost complete silence Bharti Retail, Wal-Mart’s joint venture partner in India, opened its first three stores less than a week ago in Ludihana, in the Punjab state of India. The stores which opened under the name, Easy Day, bore no identification or branding indicating that Wal-Mart had any involvement.

Although Wal-Mart is still putting out disinformation about its “India footprint,” it is really so small at this point that it is going to be harder and harder for the company to claim in the US and to financial markets that it has done anything to “open” India for the company. As advertised, but now clearer seeing the first stores, Wal-Mart is strictly the “back-in” partner with Bharti on this enterprise and operating with Bharti on the “cash and carry” wholesale market that has been legally allowed though often flaunted in Bangalore and elsewhere by Metro and other multi-national retailers.

Bharti is the conglomerate created by the Mittals from a humble beginning handling cycle parts that expanded wildly through the telecom explosion in recent years in India. Ludhiana is the Mittals hometown and no doubt was seen as a safer place to for this soft opening given the level of opposition throughout the country to foreign direct investment in retail and our India FDI Watch Campaign.

Bharti has big plans to open 10 million square feet of retail with the Easy Day shops measuring about 2500-4500 square feet per store with a mixture of food and other retail items.

My trip to Delhi this week coincides with preparations for a mass rally of traders and vendors which India FDI Watch Campaign is sponsoring with our allies to bring thousands together in Ramlila Ground in Delhi on the 23rd to renew our demand for a complete ban on FDI in retail and a limitation on conglomerate entry into retail. Inadequate protections for existing providers, communities, and workers still have not been promoted and implemented despite the resistance to modification without such protections.

The government is teetering on its own weight and continued opposition to FDI imposition is likely to prevail and grow.