Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is set to open India’s first 7-Eleven convenience store, as his Reliance conglomerate boosts its retail presence in the vast market of 1.3 billion people.
Thursday’s announcement of a franchise agreement comes two days after India’s second-largest supermarket chain Future Retail terminated its 2019 deal with 7-Eleven to open 1,000 stores.
India’s retail sector is dominated by family-owned “mom and pop” outlets but oil-to-telecoms conglomerate Reliance Industries added 1,500 new stores last year to make a total of nearly 13,000.
“7-Eleven is among the most iconic global brands in the convenience retail landscape…[and] will offer Indian customers greater convenience and choices within their own neighbourhoods,” said Isha Ambani, director of Reliance Retail Ventures and Mukesh’s daughter.
The first store will open on Saturday in a Mumbai suburb, followed by a “rapid rollout in key neighbourhoods and commercial areas, across the Greater Mumbai cluster to start with,” Reliance said.
Debt-ridden Future Retail, which owns popular brands such as Big Bazaar, said it was unable to “meet the target of opening stores and payment of franchisee fees” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
India’s Supreme Court in August blocked a $3.4-billion deal struck by Reliance to buy Future Group‘s retail assets after Amazon objected to it, claiming the deal amounted to breach of contract.
Based in Irving, Texas, 7-Eleven operates or licences more than 77,000 stores in 18 countries and regions, but has faced a delayed entry to the Indian market.
Shares in Reliance Industries were more than 1% higher in Mumbai following the announcement.
• AFP with additional editing by Jim Pollard