Single Brand Retail Trading

There have been some very wide sweeping and deep impact changes in the business and economic environment over the past few years, many of which have also had a strong social impact. While some changes could be considered political, there are many changes that have happened basically because the government of the day chose to bite the bullet. These were long overdue and just couldn’t be kicked any further down the road – to put it succinctly, “the time had come”.

India’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy, which has its genesis in the liberalisation era beginning in the early 1990s, had always been subject to periodic incremental relaxation of sectoral caps and other easing measures. However, after years of a gradualist mode, the current decade has seen more dramatic shifts in the hitherto entrenched position in respect to FDI in various sectors. The ultimate measure was of course the abolition in June 2017 of the two and half decades old Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), the inter-ministerial body that granted ‘prior government approval’ in mandated sectors.

The demise of this institution regarded as venerable by some and obstructionist by others, met as expected, with a mixed response. With nearly 95% of the FDI inflows in the country already coming in through the automatic route, the utility and need for such a body was clearly on the wane; practitioners were, however, apprehensive of the absence of the body, which had become the proverbial ‘go to place’ for clarifications and was the last port of call for policy intervention in case of need.

With the formal dissolution of the FIPB at the end of June 2017, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was put in place whereby the sectors / activities / transactions that required government approval were mandated to approach the respective administrative ministries for the same. Simultaneously, the FIPB portal was literally morphed into the Foreign Investment Facilitation Portal (FIFP), bringing with it bare essential changes to name and ownership, but virtually nothing more.


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On January 10, 2018, the Indian Cabinet gave its approval to a number of major amendments to the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy of India, to further liberalise and simplify the same. This is to increase the ease of doing business in the country, and continue to attract much needed foreign capital to fuel India’s growth. In this post, we examine the latest amendments and their impact on the crucial sectors involved therein.

Key Reforms

Single Brand Retail Trading (SBRT)

The latest amendment has brought sweeping changes in FDI norms for SBRT, thereby enticing significant foreign brands into India’s promising retail space.

The current FDI Policy on SBRT allows 49% FDI under the automatic route, and FDI beyond that and up to 100% through the Government approval route. Earlier, a sourcing norm was also attached to such an investment. This meant that investors were required to source 30% of the value of goods purchased for their Indian businesses through local sources. Several investors have had to spend a significant amount of time developing good local suppliers as partners and their inability to procure locally proved a major stumbling block in setting up their business in India.


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