India has recorded 45 per cent jump in the number of petrol pumps in the last six years, possibly the highest growth rate in the world, as public and private sector firms jostled to capture retailing sites.
With 60,799 outlets dispensing petrol and diesel at the end of October, India is behind only US and China in number of petrol pumps, data available from Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell of the Oil Ministry.
In 2011, the country had 41,947 outlets, of which 2,983 or 7.1 per cent, were owned or operated by private retailers like Reliance Industries and Essar oil.
Today, private firms own 5,474, or 9 per cent of the total outlets, with Essar being the leader with 3,980 stations. US and China have around one lakh petrol stations each.
Several countries around the globe have seen the number of petrol pumps drop as they moved towards Electric Vehicles (EVs) and alternate forms of energy but they have grown in India, which is the world's fastest-growing oil consumer.
India had in 2015 overtaken Japan as the world's third-largest oil consuming country behind US and China. Fuel consumption grew by 9.5 per cent in the April-October period of the current fiscal.
Oil ministry data showed that 18,852 outlets were added between 2011 and 2017. Of the 60,799 petrol pumps in the country, 55,325 are owned by state-owned fuel retailers.
India Oil Corp (IOC) owns and operates 26,489 petrol stations, of which 7,232 are rural outlets. Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) is the second biggest fuel retailer with 14,675 outlets, 3,159 being rural sites.
Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) owns 14,161 outlets, of which 2,548 are rural outlets.
In the private sector, Reliance Industries owns 1,400 outlets while Royal Dutch Shell has 90 stations.
Besides, there are 1,273 outlets dispensing CNG to automobiles, the most number of 423 being in Delhi, the data showed.
Industry officials said public sector oil companies will continue to add at least 2,000 petrol pumps per annum over the next few years.
In the private sector, Essar, which was recently taken over by Russia's Rosneft, had been the most aggressive. It had 1,382 outlets in 2011 and now has 3,980, which it plans to take up to 5,600 by March 2019.
Reliance Industries is going slow on the fuel retailing business and hasn't added any new site recently. It has concentrated on reopening the pumps that were shut because it could not compete with the subsidised price of fuel at PSU outlets.
With deregulation of petrol in June 2010 and diesel in 2014, private players have once again become active on fuel retailing expansion.