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Belgium’s Colruyt Group eyes expansion of IT operations, direct sourcing, unveiling of private labels in India 

Colruyt Group India Managing Director Hari Subramanian 
| Photo Credit: Arrangement

Belgian food and grocery retailer Colruyt Group said it is upbeat on India for the opportunities available to expand IT operations, directly source products (mostly food items), and to introduce some of its private labels.

India has also emerged as a promising destination to invest for the euro 10 billion in revenues group, which operates in food, non-food, health and energy segments, and Korys, an investment company of the Colruyt family.

Colruyt made a modest foray when it established an IT office in 2007 in Hyderabad with 30-40 people. The facility, which since has shaped into a global capability centre, then provided non core IT infrastructure services.

“Today, we have more than 700 people on payroll and 150 consultants,” Colruyt Group India Managing Director Hari Subramanian said. “IT engineering, project development, Data Analytics, quality assurance, Infrastructure management [are now] done from India in collaboration with the team in Belgium,” he added.

Plans are being finalised to expand operations to one more city. It has been decided to go to a tier II city where IT ecosystem exists. A few locations in 3-4 states are under evaluation and a decision is likely to be made by July.

“The move is intended to secure future talent and make sure our business is more sustainable. It will be a model where we continue to grow in Hyderabad and in the other city [too],” he said.

On the hiring plans, he said the GCC’s headcount has increased 10-15% every year over the last 8-10 years, a pattern expected to continue though any decision is linked to the parent entity’s business strategy and demand. Colruyt, for whom food retail contributes to 80% of its business has around 700 super markets in Belgium, France and Luxembourg and 33,000 employees globally.

Colruyt is also keen on having a team in India for sourcing products directly for its private label Boni. “We source from across the world… private label head office is in Hong Kong… trying to set up a team for sourcing directly from India,” said Mr.Subramanian, who is also a partner in Korys.

In 2022, Korys had invested in Nashik-headquartered Sahyadri Farms, one of largest fruit and vegetable integrators in India. “Grapes consumed in March-May by our customers [in Europe] are sourced from them,” he said, adding the investment was to ensure visibility, end to end. Rice, spices, seafood in addition to fresh fruits are now being sourced from India.

“We are looking to expand it into multiple food categories in India,” he said, adding Colruyt was exploring opportunities to bring some of its private labels in India and had commissioned a project study to assess the market potential.

From its IT balance sheet, Colruyt invests in tech funds. It has committed ₹25 crore in VC fund PI Ventures, which in turn has invested in 8-9 start-ups.

The focus of Korys’ investment, through fund of funds, is on conscious consumer, healthy living, energy and mobility segments and it has committed and deployed euro 40-50 million, including on a 40-MW wind energy asset in north Karnataka. The investment firm may begin investing directly in 5-6 years, Mr. Subramanian said.

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