Two weeks after Wal-Mart Stores and Bharti Enterprises finalised a joint venture to operate wholesale cash-and-carry and supply chain operations in India, the two companies say they are eyeing a partnership for front-end retail if the government will let them.

The wholesale joint venture, Bharti Wal-Mart Private Limited, represents Wal-Mart's first foray into India and there are plans to operate 10 to 15 outlets across the country by 2015.

On sale will be a wide range of products from fruit and vegetables, to footwear, clothing and other general merchandise items, which will be available through an efficient supply chain to small retailers and business owners. It will also serve the store chain planned by Bharti Retail.

The first Bharti Wal-Mart cash-and-carry store is set to open by the end of 2008 and the company will eventually employ around 5,000 people.

Under current law, large multi-brand international retailers are banned at the retail level in India, but not in the wholesale market.

However, speaking at the sidelines of a marketing summit in New Delhi yesterday (21 August), Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal told reporters that a joint front-end retail venture between the two companies would be on the cards if the government relaxed its foreign direct investment laws.