Indian businesses Mahindra, Trent and Lodha & Co are on Marks & Spencer’s shortlist of potential Indian joint venture partners, it is understood.

The inclusion of Lodha, an accountancy firm, surprised observers and indicates that M&S may strike a deal with a financial partner who would simply invest in the business, rather than take an active role.

All three businesses were named by India’s Economic Times, which reported that M&S may agree a deal within a month. It was not clear whether there are other potential partners on the shortlist.

At present, M&S has franchise stores in India that are run by Planet Retail. However, M&S chief executive Stuart Rose has identified big opportunities in India, which, along with China, has been prioritised for international expansion. A joint venture would allow M&S to control up to 51 per cent of the business.

Mahindra’s retail interests include licenses for brands including Lego and Disney. It is keen to bolster its retail business as the Indian consumer economy grows.

Trent, controlled by conglomerate Tata, runs chains including Westside, hypermarket Star India Bazaar and entertainment chain Landmark.

M&S was unavailable for comment.