Wal-Mart India sees real estate, talent issues-exec

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NEW YORK, Sep 24 (Reuters) The head of Wal-Mart Store Inc's India operations said on Monday that the retailer is confronting issues securing real estate and talent, but it remains ''reasonably confident'' it can open its first cash-and-carry store in the country by the end of 2008.

''I wish I could say with 200 percent confidence that yes, we'll get it done,'' said Raj Jain in an interview of the retailer meeting that deadline.

''But I think, where we sit right now, we feel reasonably confident that within the plus/minus a quarter, we should get that done.'' Wal-Mart and Bharti Enterprises announced an equal joint venture in August for a cash-and-carry, or wholesale, business and back-end supply chain management.

Called Bharti Wal-Mart Private Limited, the joint venture is scheduled to open its first store, which will sell groceries, consumer appliances and fruits and vegetables to retailers and small businesses, by the end of 2008.

Bharti Wal-Mart plans to open 10 to 15 cash-and-carry facilities over seven years.

''Real estate is a serious challenge'' in terms of cost and availability, Jain said.

He also said the other challenge is talent -- both finding it and keeping it, given the buoyancy in the Indian economy.

Jain said the joint venture has a team of about 100 employees and expects to have about 350 to 400 employees by the end of next year, excluding store employees.

He said each store will probably employ about 400 to 500.

REUTERS SR ND1945

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