Indian conglomerate the Mahindra Group is planning to roll out a retail chain selling toys and apparel across the country.

The company has decided to focus on products such as kids' apparel, toys and furnishings because its Mahindra Intertrade unit already holds licences to distribute these items in India under the Walt Disney, Mattel, Lego and Woolworths' Ladybird brands.

Best-known as an automotive and tractor maker, Mahindra Group is the latest company to target India's apparel retail sector.

Yesterday (11 October) Reliance Retail, a division of Reliance Indistries, opened its first apparel specialty store under the 'Reliance Trends' nameplate, and is gearing up for the roll-out of a country-wide network of more than 100 units.

The stores will sell private label apparel as well as brands such as Lee, Reebok and Wrangler.

And in August, Wal-Mart Stores and Bharti Enterprises finalised a joint venture to operate wholesale cash-and-carry and supply chain operations in India.

The wholesale joint venture, Bharti Wal-Mart Private Limited, represents Wal-Mart's first foray into India and will sell a wide range of products from fruit and vegetables to footwear and clothing.

The opening of big store chains has, however, led to protests across India by small local traders who feel their livelihoods are threatened.

Protests in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh last month temporarily closed about 20 new Reliance Fresh grocery stores.

India's retail sector is a $270bn business growing at over 13% a year. The opportunity for the likes of Reliance and Wal-Mart - is that less than 5% of the industry is "organised."
 
However, that still leaves 95% of the sector dominated by small family outlets who are increasingly vocal in their opposition to change.