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Team Mukesh takes stand

Calcutta, June 1: Ratan (Tata) and Mukesh (Ambani) roll off Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s tongue with ease these days. With as much ease, if not more, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

When he was saying, “Mukesh will meet me in the third week'”, a team from the elder-Ambani camp was in town making a presentation to his bureaucrats on the group’s retail plan for Bengal.

Accompanied by local businessman Harsh Neotia, the high-powered team from the chairman’s office told chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb, commerce and industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen and agriculture secretary Atanu Purokayastha that the group wanted to put up four retail stores in the state and develop 80 rural business hubs to source farm produce.

Neotia, who already has a mall in Calcutta and is developing more, will help Reliance with real estate.

At a felicitation organised for him on the election victory by the city’s chambers of commerce, the chief minister said Ambani was expected in town later this month to talk about “plans for setting up an agriculture retail chain across the state and an SEZ (special economic zone)”.

Sources said Ambani was likely to meet Bhattacharjee on June 21.

According to the plan, the pilot rollout of the retail venture around October will see the launch of 50 stores in 22 cities, four of them in Bengal.

The four to be set up in Bengal will be located in Calcutta, Haldia, Ranaghat in Nadia and Gobardanga in North 24-Parganas. Later, more will come up at Durgapur, Asansol, Siliguri and Santiniketan.

Neotia confirmed talks with Reliance, but declined further comment.

The sources said Reliance could take large space in Neotia’s upcoming projects at Haldia and Siliguri. In either place, Reliance is looking at 100,000 square feet to set up its hypermart. Anchor retailers, the main shop, in a mall usually occupy 30,000 square feet.

Although the chief minister did mention that the plan for an SEZ would be discussed with Ambani, from indications available till now this looks a little premature.

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