Mukesh Ambani says Reliance name not to be attached to retailing of ''non-veg'' items

Mumbai: Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani has said that the Reliance Retail project would not adversely affect small and local neighbourhood retailers.

The Reliance Industries chairman''s views come against the backdrop of unabated protests by thousands of traders, farmers and shopkeeper associations across the country, which have chosen Reliance Retail as their most visible target to voice their concerns about the entry of large corporate groups and foreign retailers into the sector.

Addressing RIL shareholders at the company''s 33rd annual general meeting in Mumbai, Ambani said that though there had been some concerns recently over the growth of organised retail in India, shareholders should remember that transformational initiatives almost always come with some challenges. He said that the group''s retail initiative will not jeopardise small traders in any way, and has been taken for the benefit and development of rural India, while offering a wider and better choice for consumers.

Addressing a shareholder''s question about retailing meat, poultry and fish, which are staple shelf items across supermarkets, Ambani clarified that the retail endeavour would not "attach its name with ''non-veg''".

The shareholder said that this would be abhorrent to a large section of the (Gujarati family promoted) company''s vegetarian shareholders who came from the Gujarat-Rajasthan belt in the country, claiming to know individuals who had liquidated their stake in the company when they came to know of the plans to retail non-vegetarian wares.

Ambani clarified that while the Reliance name would not be associated with non-veg, the company''s retail operations would still "do that business," either through a subsidiary or by some other means, as a way to cater to an "integrated India," implying that Reliance''s businesses cater to all of the varied cultures in the country.

According to Ambani, Reliance Retail has earmarked an investment of around $5 billion and $6 billion, and has opened 300 stores in 30 cities since it first launched the Reliance Fresh fruit and vegetable stores in November 2006. He also added that the company would look at organic and inorganic growth opportunities in foreign markets like the US and Europe.