BILLIONAIRE retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green is to open Bhs stores in India, it has emerged, stealing a march on other UK retailers looking to set up franchises in the fast-growing market.
Both Tesco and Kingfisher have been looking to set up operations in the country, while US supermarket group Wal-Mart announced a franchise deal earlier this month with Bharti.
Foreign multi-brand retailers are prohibited from operating stores but can set up franchise operations in the country.
Bhs has signed a deal with Al Maya Group, which has run Bhs's Dubai franchise for more than 20 years. LK Pagarani, a Dubai-based Indian businessman, runs the Al Maya Group.
Bhs plans to open stores in Delhi and Mumbai by the end of the year.
advertisementBhs has been trying to expand internationally, opening 15 new stores in Russia and the Middle East in 2006, and extending the chain across Eastern Europe.
India is experiencing a retail boom amid strong economic growth. The less mature markets in the Middle East are attractive to retailers as sales growth in the UK slows.
The Economist Intelligence Unit expects retail sales in India to nearly double over the next five years.
The market has traditionally been dominated by small family-owned shops. Western brands are said to be viewed with suspicion. Figures suggest only about 3pc of retail sales in India are accounted for by organised retailers.
Bhs will join a host of UK retailers either setting up in the country or looking to develop their operations there.
Mothercare has made significant strides since entering the market last year. It said recently it hoped to open 100 stores in India within five years.
M&S is also looking to develop a large franchise operation.
Home Retail Base, the owners of Argos, is to open stores under the name Hypercity-Argos after forming a joint venture with India's K Raheja in February.
New Look is also targeting India, where founder Tom Singh has extensive connections.
Sir Philip said earlier this year that he also wanted to expand Topshop into India and elsewhere. "Our plan is to develop Topshop into a global brand," he told The Daily Telegraph.