First Disney Franchise Store Opens in India

The first Walt Disney franchise store opened in India on Saturday, officials from Disney's local partners said, giving the company its first foothold in India's lucrative retail market.

The store, which sells Walt Disney Co.'s branded stationery products under the name "Disney Artist," opened in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi, said Arjun Verma, chief financial officer of Devyani International Ltd.

In October, Disney announced the tie-up with India's RJ Corp. to enter the local market. Devyani International is a subsidiary of RJ Corp.

The partnership is part of Disney's efforts to boost its presence in India, where rising middle-class incomes are driving demand for branded products from the West.

"There is a lot of potential for retailing the Disney brands, which are not currently available in India," Verma told The Associated Press, adding that they planned to set up 150 outlets over the next three years.

"Right now we are just going to concentrate on the stationery but other things may follow," Verma said.

Multinational companies have been eager to grab a share of India's retail market, estimated at about US$200 billion (euro152 billion) per year.

But it is currently dominated by more than 12 million mom-and-pop shops and the government has been slow in opening the market up, partly to protect them.

Last year, the government said it would allow foreign companies to invest in retail stores for single-brand products in partnership with Indian companies.

Several international brands such as Nokia, Marks & Spencer and Adidas have since moved to set up their own stores. Previously, their products were sold through franchises.

However, multi-product retail companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are still barred from opening stores in India.

Selling through company-owned stores currently totals just US$8 billion (euro6.1 billion).