India's retailers will face challenging times from 2009 as new malls and hypermarkets spring up across the country, supermarket tycoon Kishore Biyani warned Thursday.

The head of the Big Bazaar retail chain said many of the new stores currently under construction would be completed within the next two years.

The period from 2009 would be "intriguing for the Indian retail industry," said Biyani, adding, "how retailers cater to the market will be challenging."

Biyani, known as India's "King of Retail", made his comments at an industry conference in India's financial capital, where he also stressed the need to make finance available to Indian consumers.

"Uptake of credit is still low in India. We need to look at innovative ways of making money available to the consumer," Biyani said.

Biyani plans to launch financial credit tools such as credit cards through his retail company.

A stock exchange listing is also on the cards.

"We're growing, we're now five million square feet (465,000 square metres), we will be 10 million square feet by May next year, by 2011 we aim to be 30 million square feet," he told AFP in a recent interview.

India's retail sector is still largely closed to foreign investment and is dominated by millions of mom-and-pop stores that oppose the entry of firms like US-based Wal Mart and France's Carrefour.

Spiralling real estate prices, poor food processing and storage facilities and lack of training may slow growth, Arun Nanda, executive director with automobile firm Mahindra and Mahindra said earlier this week.

Source: AFP
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