Of FDI, Wal-Mart & controversies: An eventful year for retail

Retail

The retail sector, where the government permitted foreign direct investment in multi-brand, courted controversies during the year with several opposition parties making it a political issue in Parliament.

Even before its entry into multi-brand retail, the global chain Wal-Mart was grappling with various issues, including spending money in the US on lobbying for entry into India.

Adding action to the drama was Swedish furniture chain IKEA's hectic bargaining with the government over sourcing clauses for its foray into the Indian market with plans to invest Rs 10,500 crore, the largest FDI in single-brand retail so far, and the alleged Rs 870 crore fraud in Reebok India by its two top executives.

The year started on a sombre note for the sector, with the lingering effect of the decision to put on hold relaxation of FDI in retail in 2011.

After battling stiff political opposition, the government allowed 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail in September this year, but left it to the states to permit global retailers to open stores.

The government also gave its go ahead for 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail from 51 per cent earlier. The sourcing norms for FDI exceeding 50 per cent in single brand retail was also tweaked, changing the previous "mandatory" sourcing requirement of 30 per cent of items from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to "preferably" from MSMEs.

It, however, required foreign firms that wanted relaxation of the 30 per cent procurement norms to set up manufacturing facilities in India.

The step to let FDI in multi-brand retail didn't go down well with Opposition parties and erstwhile UPA ally Trinamool Congress, which decided to withdraw support from the government over the issue and others, including hike in diesel prices.

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