India in 1997 allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) in cash and carry wholesale. Then, it required government approval. The approval requirement was relaxed, and automatic permission was granted in 2006. Between 2000 to 2010, Indian retail attracted about $1.8 billion in foreign direct investment, representing a very small 1.5% of total investment flow into India.
Single brand retailing attracted 94 proposals between 2006 and 2010, of which 57 were approved and implemented. For a country of 1.2 billion people, this is a very small number. Some claim one of the primary restraint inhibiting better participation was that India required single brand retailers to limit their ownership in Indian outlets to 51%. China in contrast allows 100% ownership by foreign companies in both single brand and multi-brand retail presence.
Indian retail has experienced limited growth, and its spoilage of food harvest is amongst the highest in the world, because of very limited integrated cold-chain and other infrastructure. India has only 5386 stand-alone cold storages, having a total capacity of 23.6 million metric tons. However, 80 percent of this storage is used only for potatoes. The remaining infrastructure capacity is less than 1% of the annual farm output of India, and grossly inadequate during peak harvest seasons. This leads to about 30% losses in certain perishable agricultural output in India, on average, every year.