Supermarkets begin to open in India

A few tidbits from this story

On a recent Friday morning in the southern India city of Hyderabad, one of the country’s biggest companies, Reliance, plunged into the retail market by opening 11 neighborhood supermarkets simultaneously across the city.

The stores offer customers long, clean, brightly lit aisles lined with deep black plastic bins full of produce, all clearly labeled with prices. There are even modern juice bars near the exits.

“I’m already a Reliance fan,” said one early customer, Amrit Dugar, a wedding planner. “I use them for my telecom and petrol.”

Such a different notion of brand. Phone company, gas station, grocery store? Seems like these large companies in India have unique combinations of holdings, but their brands transcend their categories.

India has only a few dozen very large supermarkets, but Reliance plans to change not just the scale of what Indian retailers have seen before, but also the way they get products to market.

The Reliance Fresh stores are a mere fraction the size of the average Western supermarket, but huge compared to the majority of Indian shops; fewer than 5 percent of the country’s stores are more than 500 square feet. In three to six months, Reliance Retail will open a few flagship stores with about 100,000 square feet of space each (the average Wal-Mart is 85,000 square feet) focusing on foods, not manufactured goods.

It plans to spend $5.6 billion to open more than 4,000 stores in 1,500 towns, cities and villages over the next four years, exceeding 100 million square feet of retail space.

The article goes on to describe the coming of retail in a big way, beyond just Reliance, and the impact that this can have on small businesses, and on employment in India. The numbers in this story, the size of the country and the tiny-ness of the current retail footprint and the plans — all are mind-boggling.


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