MINT (Exclusive Partner The Wall Street Journal)

DELHI, 2 February 2007

Targeting an emerging segment of night shoppers, New Delhi-based round-the-clock convenience chain Twenty Four Seven Retail Stores Pvt. Ltd plans to invest Rs 880 crore (US$200 million) in opening 1,000 outlets in the next five years., in a country where even late markets shut by midnight.

The company plans to open 178 stores in Delhi and its suburbs before expanding to the country’s commercial capital, Mumbai, next year and thereon to other major cities.

Last year, the K.K. Modi Group forayed into organized retail by opening India’s first 24-hour convenience store in New Delhi. So far, it has opened four such outlets in the city. The fifth store will open in April.

Round-the-clock stores are virtually unknown in India’s retail market, which is growing by 7% each year. Almost half the country’s 1 billion population is below 25 years and more than a million of them work in call centres and other offshoring firms that keep Western hours.

Samir Modi, president, Twenty Four Seven Retail, said Rs 440 crore of its expansion capital would be funded by internal accruals, the rest from private investors. Modi wants to franchise 80% of the new stores. He said there was potential for 1,00,000 such stores in India in the next 20 years.

“There is an emerging consumer segment that works longer hours,” especially among the workforce in the country’s outsourcing and technology industry, said Devangshu Dutta, head of retail research group, Third Eyesight. “There has to be something catering to them.”

Twenty Four Seven studied various global 24/7 store formats for two years before rolling out its first outlet.