US retail giant Walmart will roll out business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce operations in select locations in India next month and will continue to ‘study the environment’ for FDI in multi-brand retail.
“E-commerce is a promising business to be in. We will launch B2B e-commerce in Lucknow and Hyderabad from July 1. It is important to have a measured roll-out,” Walmart India Chief Executive Officer Krish Iyer said.
He said rolling out the facility across its 20 stores in India would depend on the feedback and response from the two pilot programmes.
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Iyer, however, declined to comment on whether Walmart would enter the online retail business to sell products directly to consumers, where FDI is not allowed.
Asked if the company would tie up with a local player for multi-brand retail, he said: “…we continue to study the
environment, engage with the government. We will continue to respectfully submit to the government that Walmart can bring value to the country. We will keep scanning the environment and take an appropriate decision at the appropriate time.”
The US retailer called off its six-year, 50:50 partnership with Bharti Enterprises in October and decided to operate wholesale stores independently in India.
Walmart acquired Bharti’s 50 per cent stake in the wholesale joint venture. Bharti bought $100 million of compulsory convertible debentures held by Walmart in Cedar Support Services, a company owned and controlled by the Indian firm. Bharti Retail continues to run ‘Easyday’ stores.
Iyer reiterated that at present, Walmart’s focus in India would be solely on the cash-and-carry business.
“My mandate is grow cash-and-carry and our entire focus is going to be on cash-and-carry,” he said.
Underlining the potential of the cash-and-carry business in India, he said: “At present, the wholesale business is estimated to be USD 300 billion and it is expected to become USD 600-700 billion by 2020.”
In April, Walmart announced plans to open 50 wholesale stores in the next four to five years to expand its footprint in the country. Walmart operates wholesale stores under the brand ‘Best Price’ in India.
Asked if the company would acquire existing cash-and-carry stores in India, Iyer said: “We continue to look at all the opportunities, we don’t rule out anything but we certainly plan a more aggressive greenfield expansion.”
He refused to comment on reports suggesting Walmart will look at acquiring a part of French retailer Carrefour’s business in India.