Chasing the magic figure of $1 trillion, the retail industry has managed to cross the halfway-mark this year, even as the traditional brick- and-mortar retailers face a new challenge from online players while entry of Walmarts of the world hangs in balance.
Since a BJP-led new government came to the power in May 2014, the hope of FDI being allowed in the multi-brand retailer has taken a backseat, forcing multinational supermarket operators like Walmart to stay away, while French firm Carrefour has gone a step further by shutting down its wholesale stores and exiting India.
While the previous UPA government had allowed up to 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, no foreign retailer apart from Tesco had approached the government for permission to set up stores to sell multiple brands under one roof.
Reflecting on the year passing by, Retailers Association of India CEO Kumar Rajagopalan said: "This was a year of new challenges, new government and cautious optimism. BJP, even before election, had made its position on FDI in multi-brand retail clear."
While the new government's FDI position has been on the expected lines, the retailers expect a stable government to boost the economy, which in turn will help retailers, he added.
Industry estimates pegged the size of retail sector at $560 billion this year, growing by 10 per cent compared with last year. As per various estimates, the industry is now expected to reach $1 trillion mark by 2020, while this target was being eyed much earlier on hopes of FDI.
For the world's biggest retailer Walmart, it was a matter of adjusting to the circumstances in the short and medium term and bide time to tap India's retail potential in the long term.
"We see the potential of the country and we have a long term view. At the moment we are focused on cash and carry business under our Best Price brand," Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon stated while announcing the company's plans to focus only on cash and carry in India.
Expressing the company's desire to operate multi-brand stores in India he said when would it happen would depend on "people of India and the government of India with regard to the regulations for foreign direct investment."
"We will respectfully wait, answer all questions and try to demonstrate that having Walmart in India is a good thing for the country," McMillon added.