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Retail rush

Micky Jagtiani wants to become a global player.

Landmarks Jagtiani: Watch this space, theres more in store
Mukesh Jagtiani
The Oasis Centre is a new 200,000-sq. ft retail centre on Bangalore’s Intermediate Ring Road and was opened in late January by the $2-billion Landmark Group, based in Dubai. Backed by booming music, balloons and confetti, the place was thrown open to business as an odd selection of hangers-on, store staff and visiting journalists looked on. The centre of attention was a short, stout man in a dark blazer and khakis, who seemed embarrassed by the attention. This reticent man is Mukesh ‘Micky” Jagtiani, a one-time cabbie-turnedretail mogul who was visiting India’s IT Capital to inaugurate his latest retail venture.

Jagtiani started with just one store in West Asia three decades ago; today, his empire has expanded to 600 stores that employ 20,000 people, with operations in India, China and Europe, besides the headquarters. Now, he wants to take the next step up to compete with global giants, by putting in place an inorganic expansion strategy that involves spending up to $10 billion on mergers and acquisitions.

Already, the reclusive millionaire has bought a minority stake in UK retailer Debenhams and has also been linked with Saks, as he seeks to establish a global presence. “Western retailers quickly give me the scale needed to be a serious player,” Jagtiani told this writer before rushing to catch his evening flight. To fund this ambitious expansion programme, Jagtiani plans multiple listings, not just in Dubai but in the West and possibly in India too. “We don’t have the funds internally for such a massive expansion programme,” he admits.

Jagtiani could lean on his fast-growing India operations for some cash, since he expects his 67-store business here (covering Lifestyle, Max, Baby Shop and most recently, Spar Hyper Markets) to become a $1-billion business by 2012. He plans to invest $500 million in expanding his India footprint. While the company plans to set up around 35 more Lifestyle stores across the country, Jagtiani also plans to open 15 more Home Centre stores in the country. “The competition is intense in India with Biyani, Ambani and now Mittal on a massive expansion path, but we believe we’ve created our own niche here,” he says.

Rahul Sachitanand