If you need to know how hard it is to run a wholesale-grocery chain in India, look no further than the topline of the German company that introduced the concept to the country in 2003. 

Metro Cash & Carry’s revenue in the year ended March 2021 was just Rs 6,500 crore (~US$835 million). For context, DMart, the Indian supermarket chain that began its journey around the same time as Metro, posted sales that were over 3.5X in the same period. 

And unlike DMart, a handsomely profitable company, Metro is still in the red after trying to hack it for years, even though it’s closer to profitability than it has ever been before. Metro’s gross margins of ~11% are lower than DMart’s 14-15%. 

“You need operational efficiency of another level to sustain this business,” says a retail analyst with a domestic brokerage. They and several others quoted in the story requested anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media. 

So, it hardly comes as a surprise that Metro is reportedly reportedly The Economic Times After 19 years, Metro plans to cash out of India business for $1.5-1.75 billion Read more  in talks with a range of companies to sell its India business for US$1.5-1.75 billion. 

What’s interesting, though, are the kinds of suitors in question. 

There are some predictable names, such as Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, which is looking to add to its three cash-and-carry stores in India. E-commerce behemoth Amazon and private-equity firm Samara Capital Samara Capital Business Standard PE firm Lightspeed gets bid invite for Metro Cash & Carry's India ops Read more , which together own the More supermarket chain, are also in the running. 

Then, there’s Reliance Retail, which exited the offline wholesale business in late 2020, despite being the largest player. The company turned its 52 cash-and-carry Reliance Market stores into fulfilment centres for its e-commerce service, JioMart JioMart The Ken A year after its launch, JioMart’s e-commerce book is still in its first chapter Read more

The unlikeliest candidate of them all, though, has to be food-delivery giant Swiggy. Its interest in Metro relates to ambitious plans for its rapid-grocery-delivery service, Instamart. In December 2021, Swiggy said it would invest US$ 700 million 700 million The Economic Times Swiggy earmarks $700 million for Instamart amid insant grocery wars Read more in Instamart over two to three years.