UAE retailers are making a big push into India this year, with Landmark Group and the Al-Futtaim Group looking to cash in on growing consumerism among the country's middle class.
Landmark Group, whose brands include Splash and Home Centre, is expanding its network of hospitality brands, nearly doubling the number of its entertainment centres and coffee shops in India. Westar, a line of watches made by Al-Futtaim Watches and Jewellery, already has three stores in India with its distributor and plans to add another four or five outlets by the end of the year.
Ira Malik, the chief operating officer for hospitality with the Dubai retail group, said India represented a huge opportunity.
"This is going to be a big thrust," she said. "The aspiration is to significantly scale this business."
Landmark plans to expand its network of Gloria Jean's coffee shops in India to 40 from 18. It also plans to expand its Fun City entertainment centres to 26 from 14 within the same time frame, she said.
India has been a hotspot for international retailers, with big brands such as Carrefour and Walmart setting up shop. UAE retailers such as Emke Group, which plans to open a 204,386 square metre mall in Kochi, south-west India, have also made their moves.
Indian retail sales reached an estimated US$277.8 billion (Dh1.02 trillion) last year, up 13 per cent from 2009, according to Euromonitor International. This growth in spending has been matched by a flurry of new shopping centres. At the end of last year, there was an estimated 49.6 million square feet of retail space, up 24 per cent from the previous year, data from property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle show. However, India has not been exempt from the effects of the global downturn. In 2009, the cost of renting a shop there fell as growth in consumer spending slowed to single digits and the market became flooded with a new supply of shops. India has also proved to be a diverse market with several languages, religions and cultures, making it difficult for brands to develop a broad strategy, say retailers.
Landmark has had a presence in India with its lifestyle brands, such as Home Centre, for at least four years. But it waited until it had closer knowledge of the Indian market to push further with its other brands, said Ms Malik.
"Operating in India is a very challenging task. It's very important that when you go you understand the dynamics."
Thomas Dotzek, the senior general manager of Al-Futtaim Watches and Jewellery, said the company hoped to benefit from Indian consumers who were already familiar with the brand, such as those in Kerala.
"In the Middle East and the UAE, a lot of people from Kerala are working over here, so I think Westar is quite popular," said Mr Dotzek.