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France: Carrefour might rope in R Gopalan for multi-brand foray

French retail chain Carrefour, the world's largest chain after Walmart, is likely to rope in R Gopalan, who retired as secretary, department of economic affairs in July.

Carrefour, which is yet to finalise its Indian joint venture partner, is looking at a senior bureaucrat to advise the group for its multi-brand kick-off in the country. This follows the recent Cabinet decision to allow up to 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

The Carrefour spokesperson in India did not respond to calls, email and text message sent by Business Standard on whether Gopalan would join the company to drive its multi-brand venture. Gopalan, too, did not reply to a text message on the same matter.

Many bureaucrats have in the recent past switched sides to join companies. Ashok Jha, former finance secretary, took over as president, Hyundai Motors, soon after his top job at the ministry. Jha is now the chairman, Multi Commodity Exchange.

Others who have moved from the government to the private sector include Rajeev Talwar, who quit the tourism ministry to join DLF, and Vijay Kelkar, former advisor to the finance minister, who was the non-executive chairman at National Stock Exchange till recently.

At present, Carrefour has two cash and carry or wholesale stores in India, where up to 100 per cent FDI is permitted.

The group, known for its supermarket and convenience store format in other parts of the world, has had a slow beginning in India. It opened the first cash and carry store in Delhi in December 2010 and the second in Jaipur a year later.

For its multi-brand foray in India, Carrefour was believed to be in talks with the Future group some time back; the buzz now is the two may revive dialogue as the government has lifted the ban on FDI in multi-brand retail. The group however may not be too aggressive in its launch plan immediately, due to the economic slowdown in Europe.

Carrefour, with yearly revenue topping ^100 billion, said in its annual report recently that in 2012 it intended to maintain strict financial discipline in response to a still challenging business environment. While it wanted to continue to focus on emerging markets, the preferred areas included China, Brazil and Indonesia, it said.

Like some other international retail majors such as Walmart and Tesco, it has been waiting for India to allow FDI in multi-brand retail. Carrefour India chief Jean Noel Bironneau had in May met Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to discuss retail business issues, including FDI.

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