India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, announced Thursday he plans to roll out 7-Eleven, an ambitious convenience store chain, to compete with the huge overseas chains already present in India.
“We are a brave step into a new world,” Ambani said at the store’s “soft launch” in Bangalore, according to Reuters.
The venture could have an immediate effect on the 3,800 megastores already operating in India, the world’s second-largest consumer market after China.
The Ambanis own a significant portion of Reliance Industries, India’s largest corporate entity. They already own 9,000 convenience stores in India, and the chain carries toiletries, groceries, and other products.
Officials at parent company Reliance Industries, valued at more than $300 billion, told Reuters they had no trouble finding enough suppliers to meet the demand.
An American subsidiary of 7-Eleven now operates stores in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. That market is expected to be the largest for a 7-Eleven in the world.
The 7-Eleven chain, founded in 1964, operates more than 36,000 stores worldwide, mostly in the U.S. and Canada. The chain has expanded beyond the store front to include gas stations, T-shirt retailers, convenience stores, coffee and foods, as well as digital storage services. The chain also operates 13,000 convenience stores in China, where sales have dipped sharply as the economy slows.
Ambani, who currently owns more than 43.5 billion rupees in Reliance Industries shares, is India’s first-ever billion-dollar-worth individual and the 22nd-richest person in the world, according to Forbes.
Ambani’s announcement seemed to bring forward his own wish that the country open its retail sector to foreign investment. India currently allows foreign retailers and e-commerce companies to operate in the country, but at 30 percent of a company’s gross sales.