History of FDI in India

The economic liberalisation in India refers to ongoing economic reforms in India that started on 24 July 1991. After Independence in 1947, India adhered to socialist policies. Attempts were made to liberalize economy in 1966 and 1985. The first attempt was reversed in 1967. Thereafter, a stronger version of socialism was adopted. Second major attempt was in 1985 by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The process came to a halt in 1987, though 1966 style reversal did not take place. In 1991, after India faced a balance of payments crisis, it had to pledge 20 tons of gold to Union Bank of Switzerland and 47 tons to Bank of England as part of a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In addition, the IMF required India to undertake a series of structural economic reforms. As a result of this requirement, the government of P. V. Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Manmohan Singh (currently the Prime Minister of India) started breakthrough reforms, although they did not implement many of the reforms the IMF wanted. The new neo-liberal policies included opening for international trade and investment, deregulation, initiation of privatization, tax reforms, and inflation-controlling measures. The overall direction of liberalisation has since remained the same, irrespective of the ruling party, although no party has yet tried to take on powerful lobbies such as the trade unions and farmers, or contentious issues such as reforming labour laws and reducing agricultural subsidies.Thus, unlike the reforms of 1966 and 1985 that were carried out by the majority Congress governments, the reforms of 1991 carried out by a minority government proved sustainable.

India in 1997 allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) in cash and carry wholesale. Then, it required government approval. The approval requirement was relaxed, and automatic permission was granted in 2006. Between 2000 to 2010, Indian retail attracted about $1.8 billion in foreign direct investment, representing a very small 1.5% of total investment flow into India.

Single brand retailing attracted 94 proposals between 2006 and 2010, of which 57 were approved and implemented. For a country of 1.2 billion people, this is a very small number. Some claim one of the primary restraint inhibiting better participation was that India required single brand retailers to limit their ownership in Indian outlets to 51%. China in contrast allows 100% ownership by foreign companies in both single brand and multi-brand retail presence.

Indian retail has experienced limited growth, and its spoilage of food harvest is amongst the highest in the world, because of very limited integrated cold-chain and other infrastructure. India has only 5386 stand-alone cold storages, having a total capacity of 23.6 million metric tons. However, 80 percent of this storage is used only for potatoes. The remaining infrastructure capacity is less than 1% of the annual farm output of India, and grossly inadequate during peak harvest seasons. This leads to about 30% losses in certain perishable agricultural output in India, on average, every year.

Indian laws already allow foreign direct investment in cold-chain infrastructure to the extent of 100 percent. There has been no interest in foreign direct investment in cold storage infrastructure build out. Experts claim that cold storage infrastructure will become economically viable only when there is strong and contractually binding demand from organized retail. The risk of cold storing perishable food, without an assured way to move and sell it, puts the economic viability of expensive cold storage in doubt. In the absence of organized retail competition and with a ban on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retailers, foreign direct investments are unlikely to begin in cold storage and farm logistics infrastructure.

Until 2010, intermediaries and middlemen in India have dominated the value chain. Due to a number of intermediaries involved in the traditional Indian retail chain, norms are flouted and pricing lacks transparency. Small Indian farmers realize only 1/3rd of the total price paid by the final Indian consumer, as against 2/3rd by farmers in nations with a higher share of organized retail. The 60%+ margins for middlemen and traditional retail shops have limited growth and prevented innovation in Indian retail industry.

India has had years of debate and discussions on the risks and prudence of allowing innovation and competition within its retail industry. Numerous economists repeatedly recommended to the Government of India that legal restrictions on organized retail must be removed, and the retail industry in India must be opened to competition. For example, in an invited address to the Indian parliament in December 2010, Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Law at the Columbia University analysed the relationship between growth and poverty reduction, then urged the Indian parliament to extend economic reforms by freeing up of the retail sector, further liberalization of trade in all sectors, and introducing labor market reforms. Such reforms Professor Bhagwati argued will accelerate economic growth and make a sustainable difference in the life of India’s poorest.,

A 2007 report noted that an increasing number of people in India are turning to the services sector for employment due to the relative low compensation offered by the traditional agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The organized retail market is growing at 35 percent annually while growth of unorganized retail sector is pegged at 6 percent.

The Retail Business in India is currently at the point of inflection. As of 2008, rapid change with investments to the tune of US $ 25 billion were being planned by several Indian and multinational companies in the next 5 years. It is a huge industry in terms of size and according to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), it is valued at about US$ 395.96 billion. Organised retail is expected to garner about 16-18 percent of the total retail market (US $ 65-75 billion) in the next 5 years.

India has topped the A.T. Kearney’s annual Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) for the third consecutive year, maintaining its position as the most attractive market for retail investment. The Indian economy has registered a growth of 8% for 2007. The predictions for 2008 is 7.9%.The enormous growth of the retail industry has created a huge demand for real estate. Property developers are creating retail real estate at an aggressive pace and by 2010, 300 malls are estimated to be operational in the country.

 After 2011

For years, India had prevented innovation and organized competition in its consumer retail industry. Several studies claim that the lack of infrastructure and competitive retail industry is a key cause of India’s persistently high inflation. Furthermore, because of unorganized retail, in a nation where malnutrition remains a serious problem, food waste is rife. Well over 30% of food staples and perishable goods produced in India spoils because poor infrastructure and small retail outlets prevent hygienic storage and movement of the goods from the farmer to the consumer.

One report estimates the 2011 Indian retail market as generating sales of about $470 billion a year, of which a minuscule $27 billion comes from organized retail such as supermarkets, chain stores with centralized operations and shops in malls. The opening of retail industry to free market competition, some claim will enable rapid growth in retail sector of Indian economy. Others believe the growth of Indian retail industry will take time, with organized retail possibly needing a decade to grow to a 25% share. A 25% market share, given the expected growth of Indian retail industry through 2021, is estimated to be over $250 billion a year: a revenue equal to the 2009 revenue share from Japan for the world’s 250 largest retailers.

The Economist forecasts that Indian retail will nearly double in economic value, expanding by about $400 billion by 2020. The projected increase alone is equivalent to the current retail market size of France.

In 2011, food accounted for 70% of Indian retail, but was under-represented by organized retail. A.T. Kearney estimates India’s organized retail had a 31% share in clothing and apparel, while the home supplies retail was growing between 20% to 30% per year. These data correspond to retail prospects prior to November announcement of the retail reform. The Indian market offers endless possibilities for investors.

It might be true that India has the largest number of shops per inhabitant. However we (locatus) have detailed figures for Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. In Belgium, the number of outlets is approximately 8 per 1,000 and in the Netherlands it is 6. So the Indian number must be far higher.

 Until 2011, Indian central government denied foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand Indian retail, forbidding foreign groups from any ownership in supermarkets, convenience stores or any retail outlets, to sell multiple products from different brands directly to Indian consumers..

The government of Manmohan Singh, prime minister, announced on 24 November 2011 the following:

India will allow foreign groups to own up to 51 per cent in “multi-brand retailers”, as supermarkets are known in India, in the most radical pro-liberalisation reform passed by an Indian cabinet in years;

single brand retailers, such as Apple and Ikea, can own 100 percent of their Indian stores, up from the previous cap of 51 percent;

both multi-brand and single brand stores in India will have to source nearly a third of their goods from small and medium-sized Indian suppliers;

all multi-brand and single brand stores in India must confine their operations to 53-odd cities with a population over one million, out of some 7935 towns and cities in India. It is expected that these stores will now have full access to over 200 million urban consumers in India;

multi-brand retailers must have a minimum investment of US$100 million with at least half of the amount invested in back end infrastructure, including cold chains, refrigeration, transportation, packing, sorting and processing to considerably reduce the post harvest losses and bring remunerative prices to farmers;

the opening of retail competition will be within India’s federal structure of government. In other words, the policy is an enabling legal framework for India. The states of India have the prerogative to accept it and implement it, or they can decide to not implement it if they so choose. Actual implementation of policy will be within the parameters of state laws and regulations.

The opening of retail industry to global competition is expected to spur a retail rush to India. It has the potential to transform not only the retailing landscape but also the nation’s ailing infrastructure.

A Wall Street Journal article claims that fresh investments in Indian organized retail will generate 10 million new jobs between 2012–2014, and about five to six million of them in logistics alone; even though the retail market is being opened to just 53 cities out of about 8000 towns and cities in India.

It is expected to help tame stubbornly high inflation but is likely to be vehemently opposed by millions of small retailers, who see large foreign chains as a threat. The need to control food price inflation—averaging double-digit rises over several years prompted the government to open the sector, analysts claim. Hitherto India’s food supplies have been controlled by tens of millions of middlemen (less than 5% of Indian population). Traders add huge mark-ups to farm prices, while offering little by way of technical support to help farmers boost their productivity, packaging technology, pushing up retail prices significantly. Analysts said allowing in big foreign retailers would provide an impetus for them to set up modern supply chains, with refrigerated vans, cold storage and more efficient logistics. “I think foreign chains can also bring in humongous logistical benefits and capital,” Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general, Confederation of Indian Industry, told Reuters. “The biggest beneficiary would be the small farmers who will be able to improve their productivity by selling directly to large organised players,” Mr Banerjee said.

 Until 2011, Indian central government denied foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand Indian retail, forbidding foreign groups from any ownership in supermarkets, convenience stores or any retail outlets, to sell multiple products from different brands directly to Indian consumers..

The government of Manmohan Singh, prime minister, announced on 24 November 2011 the following:

India will allow foreign groups to own up to 51 per cent in “multi-brand retailers”, as supermarkets are known in India, in the most radical pro-liberalisation reform passed by an Indian cabinet in years;

single brand retailers, such as Apple and Ikea, can own 100 percent of their Indian stores, up from the previous cap of 51 percent;

both multi-brand and single brand stores in India will have to source nearly a third of their goods from small and medium-sized Indian suppliers;

all multi-brand and single brand stores in India must confine their operations to 53-odd cities with a population over one million, out of some 7935 towns and cities in India. It is expected that these stores will now have full access to over 200 million urban consumers in India;

multi-brand retailers must have a minimum investment of US$100 million with at least half of the amount invested in back end infrastructure, including cold chains, refrigeration, transportation, packing, sorting and processing to considerably reduce the post harvest losses and bring remunerative prices to farmers;

the opening of retail competition will be within India’s federal structure of government. In other words, the policy is an enabling legal framework for India. The states of India have the prerogative to accept it and implement it, or they can decide to not implement it if they so choose. Actual implementation of policy will be within the parameters of state laws and regulations.

The opening of retail industry to global competition is expected to spur a retail rush to India. It has the potential to transform not only the retailing landscape but also the nation’s ailing infrastructure.

A Wall Street Journal article claims that fresh investments in Indian organized retail will generate 10 million new jobs between 2012–2014, and about five to six million of them in logistics alone; even though the retail market is being opened to just 53 cities out of about 8000 towns and cities in India.

It is expected to help tame stubbornly high inflation but is likely to be vehemently opposed by millions of small retailers, who see large foreign chains as a threat. The need to control food price inflation—averaging double-digit rises over several years—prompted the government to open the sector, analysts claim. Hitherto India’s food supplies have been controlled by tens of millions of middlemen (less than 5% of Indian population). Traders add huge mark-ups to farm prices, while offering little by way of technical support to help farmers boost their productivity, packaging technology, pushing up retail prices significantly. Analysts said allowing in big foreign retailers would provide an impetus for them to set up modern supply chains, with refrigerated vans, cold storage and more efficient logistics. “I think foreign chains can also bring in humongous logistical benefits and capital,” Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general, Confederation of Indian Industry, told Reuters. “The biggest beneficiary would be the small farmers who will be able to improve their productivity by selling directly to large organised players,” Mr Banerjee said.

 According to Bloomberg, on 3 December 2011, the Chief Minister of the Indian state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who is against the policy and whose Trinamool Congress brings 19 votes to the ruling Congress party-led coalition, claimed that India’s government may put the FDI retail reforms on hold until it reaches consensus within the ruling coalition. Reuters reports that this risked a possible dilution of the policy rather than a change of heart.,

India Today claimed that the resistance to Indian retail reforms is primarily because it has been badly sold, even though it can help fix the exploitation of Indian farmers by the decades-old “arhtiya” and “mandi” monopoly system. India Today claims the policy is good for the small Indian farmer and the Indian consumer.

Pratap Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research, claimed any U-turn or postponement of retail reforms will cause an immense loss of face to the Congress-led central government of Manmohan Singh. The mom-and-pop farmers of India support these reforms. The consumers of India want the reforms. The government has already annoyed those who oppose change and innovation in retail. By putting retail reforms on hold, the government will additionally alienate much larger segment of India’s population supporting FDI. So they will now have the worst of both worlds, claims Mehta.

Deepak Parekh, Ashok Ganguly and other economic policy leaders of India, on 4 December 2011, called placing investment and innovation in retail on hold for the sake of vested interests as unfair and detrimental to vast majority in India. They urged farmers, consumers and the common people to raise their voice against this false drama of apprehension against investment and modernising trade in organised retailing. They called upon Indians to come out and strongly support progressive measures and reforms with the same spirit and gusto with which we take the liberties to criticize policies or issues we do not appreciate.

Several newspapers claimed on 6 December 2011 that India parliament is expected to shelve retail reforms while the ruling Congress party seeks consensus from the opposition and the Congress party’s own coalition partners. Suspension of retail reforms on 7 December 2011 would be, the reports claimed, an embarrassing defeat for the Indian government, suggesting it is weak and ineffective in implementing its ideas.

Anand Sharma, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister, after a meeting of all political parties on 7 December 2011 said, “The decision to allow foreign direct investment in retail is suspended till consensus is reached with all stakeholders.”

On January 11, 2012, India approved increased competition and innovation in single-brand retail.

The reform seeks to attract investments in operations and marketing, improve the availability of goods for the consumer, encourage increased sourcing of goods from India, and enhance competitiveness of Indian enterprises through access to global designs, technologies and management practices. In this announcement, India requires single-brand retailer, with greater than 51% foreign ownership, to source at least 30% of the value of products from Indian small industries, village and cottage industries, artisans and craftsmen.

 Until 2011, Indian central government denied foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, forbidding foreign groups from any ownership in supermarkets, convenience stores or any retail outlets. Even single-brand retail was limited to 51% ownership and a bureaucratic process.

In November 2011, India’s central government announced retail reforms for both multi-brand stores and single-brand stores. These market reforms paved the way for retail innovation and competition with multi-brand retailers such as Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco, as well single brand majors such as IKEA, Nike, and Apple. The announcement sparked intense activism, both in opposition and in support of the reforms. In December 2011, under pressure from the opposition, Indian government placed the retail reforms on hold till it reaches a consensus.

In January 2012, India approved reforms for single-brand stores welcoming anyone in the world to innovate in Indian retail market with 100% ownership, but imposed the requirement that the single brand retailer source 30 percent of its goods from India. Indian government continues the hold on retail reforms for multi-brand stores.

In June 2012, IKEA announced it has applied for permission to invest $1.9 billion in India and set up 25 retail stores. Fitch believes that the 30 percent requirement is likely to significantly delay if not prevent most single brand majors from Europe, USA and Japan from opening stores and creating associated jobs in India.

On 14 September 2012, the government of India announced the opening of FDI in multi-brand retail, subject to approvals by individual states. This decision has been welcomed by economists and the markets, however has caused protests and an upheaval in India’s central government’s political coalition structure. On 20 September 2012, the Government of India formally notified the FDI reforms for single and multi brand retail, thereby making it effective under Indian law.

254 thoughts on “History of FDI in India”

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