The former chief executive of Marks & Spencer’s Indian business, Mark Ashman, has jumped ship to run local rival Hypercity, which sells Waitrose products in the country.

Ashman will join Hypercity as chief executive this autumn, having left Marks & Spencer’s joint venture with Indian giant Reliance Retail in April to head the British retailer’s European and Middle Eastern operations, the Daily Telegraph reported.

India has become an important battleground for UK retailers which are keen to expand in the fast-growing market and Marks & Spencer and Waitrose are replicating their domestic rivalry there.

Hypercity, which has seven stores and is partly owned by Indian retailer Shoppers Stop, struck an agreement with Waitrose in 2006 enabling it to stock the John Lewis-owned grocer’s products.

Marks & Spencer has 18 shops in India and wants 50 shops there by 2015. Its Indian stores focus on clothing rather than food.