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Swadeshi retail icon to drop label

Nivedita Mookerji  |  New Delhi 

The Bombay Store, whose origin goes back to the Swadeshi movement, is now open to foreign investment.

While protests are mounting against the government policy allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, the chain, founded by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and supported by the likes of Ratanji Jamshedji Tata, is in the midst of change. Besides foreign money, it is also keen on establishing a global presence.

Speaking to Business Standard on the current political opposition to the government’s FDI decision, Asim Dalal, managing director, The Bombay Store, said, “You have to change with the times.” When asked whether he sensed a dichotomy in a ‘Swadeshi’ company looking for foreign investment, Dalal said, “Business will change when the whole world is opening up.” Adding, “The new generation is going for online purchases in a big way. They are buying through their tablet PCs. How are we going to protect our country from all this?”

Founded as the Bombay Swadeshi Co-Op Stores Co Ltd in 1906, it was the first retail company to be listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, in 1963. In 1995, its name was changed to The Bombay Store.

Majority owned by the Dalal family, the chain had changed hands many times over the years. “We are not looking for international funds immediately, but we are open to the idea of getting foreign investment in future,” Dalal said. The company may look for venture capital or a private equity fund for growing its e-commerce business.

The chain also has plans of going abroad. It recently started selling online and is now in the process of tying up with e-commerce market places. “We are exploring a business plan to have international exposure, too,” Dalal said. Among others, it is in talks with online major Amazon for a logistic tie-up. Among the other formats this retail chain is looking at is the franchisee route.

The Bombay Store has 17 outlets across the west and south and sells a combination of trendy and ethnic products in apparel, fashion accessories, personal care and gift segments. Its flagship store, spread across 10,000 sq ft, is at Sir PM Road, Fort, in Mumbai.

The chain is a significant player in airport retailing in several cities, including Mumbai. It plans to expand to the northern and eastern regions soon, with stores being planned in Delhi and Kolkata.

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First Published: Fri, December 02 2011. 00:30 IST
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