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Submitted By anil
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Will Wal-Mart Succeed in India? Perhaps...But It Won't Be Easy
Published: December 14, 2006 in India Knowledge@Wharton

"He doesn't realize it, but I know everything about him,"says Indian retail magnate Kishore Biyani about a youngman sitting with him in a Mumbai hotel meeting room inearly December. "I see that he is wearing Colour Plustrousers. I know his waist size ... I know everything about him. We are a company of observers, andeverybody is trained to observe customers," says Biyani, who is CEO of the Future Group and managingdirector of its flagship Pantaloon retail chain that last year had revenues of Rs. 2,018 crore ($450million) and expects to become a $1 billion company by mid 2007. Biyani often spends Sundays hanging about unobtrusively and watching shoppers at his company's 200clothing stores in 32 Indian cities. The home-grown retailer's obsession for observing the average Indianconsumer also at public places like temples and movie halls underscores what could be Wal-Mart'sbiggest challenge as it sets up shop in India in partnership with Bharti, a leading telecom servicesprovider. "India is a very diverse country -we have 6,000 castes and sub-castes in 28 states, and everycommunity has its own tastes; every state has its own nuances," says Biyani. "To manage the diversityand the heterogeneity will be one of the biggest challenges for anybody who comes to this market." Enigmatic India and its challenges in transportation, warehousing and distribution infrastructure haven'tdeterred the world's biggest organized retailers that have lobbied -unsuccessfully so far -- with theIndian government to permit foreign direct investment in the retail industry. Wal-Mart battled stiffopposition from Indian retail chains and found an open backdoor, forming a joint venture with Bharti tosupply back-end supply chain technology and related processes; Bharti will handle…...

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