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Reliance to start wholesale stores for small traders

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Aimed at appeasing those opposed to Reliance Fresh, Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Mukesh Ambani plans to start wholesale stores on a “pilot basis” to sell goods to small traders and shopkeepers.

Addressing investors at the annual general meeting in Mumbai today, he said the protests would peter out once consumers and farmers get to know the benefits of the initiative by Reliance.

Ambani said the company retail plans wouldn’t jeopardize the livelihoods of small shop owners.

“We stand committed to what we set out to achieve,” Ambani, 50, said about the retail business, dismissing concerns that the protests against his retail outlets in Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand may slow the pace of expansion.

RIL has opened less than a third of the retail stores it planned for this year, as opposition from vendors and small shopkeepers forced it to close some of them.

Reliance has started 300 grocery, electronics and apparel stores in 30 cities, Mukesh Ambani said adding the group had planned to open 1,000 Reliance Fresh shops by the end of 2007.

Reliance Retail Ltd. may focus on clothing and electronic retailing after small grocery traders accused it of undercutting prices and trying to drive them out of business, said R.K. Gupta, an investor.

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