Walmart seeks more clarity on FDI rules for multi-brand retail entry in India

Written by PTI | Davos | Updated: Jan 24 2014, 19:26pm hrs
WalmartAt present, Walmart is focussed on cash and carry business in India under its Best Price brand.
Eyeing India as a long-term growth market, US-based retail giant Walmart says it is currently focussing on expanding its wholesale retail business in the country and would wait for further clarity on rules for entering the multi-brand retail business.

"We are excited about India and we continue to be so. We see the potential of the country and we have a long term view. At the moment we are focussed on cash and carry business under our Best Price brand," Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said in an interview here.

"We will continue to serve the shopkeepers, kiranas and farmers using that format and grow our that business in India," said McMillon, who is here to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting.

When asked about registering a new company in India earlier this month, he said that Walmart is positioning itself for the future, but the focus for the moment remains on Best Price cash and carry format.

The retailer has registered a new company called 'Wal-Mart India Private Ltd' in the country.

Asked about possible timeline for multi-brand entry, McMillon said it is not possible as of now to predict any timeline as it would depend on the decision taken by the "people of India and the government of India with regard to the regulations for foreign direct investment."

"We will respectfully wait, answer all questions and try to demonstrate that having Walmart in India is a good thing for the country," he said.

After parting ways with Bharti group in October last year, Walmart had said it was studying the feasibility of India's foreign direct investment (FDI) policy in multi-brand retail before finalising plans to enter the segment.

To a question whether Walmart was in a wait-and-watch mode because of upcoming general elections, he evaded a direct reply and said, "We continue to monitor the situation every day. We have a team in India and they are monitoring the things."

"It is my desire to be in India and it is also the company's desire to serve customers and we have a long term view on India," he said.

"Every stakeholder has responded very well to this format and we hope that as time goes on, the retail regulations are completed in such a way and the foreign investment rules are decided in such as way that we can help serve people of India even further and move into multi brand retail as well," he said.

"We would like to create a stronger supply chain in the country. We will like to serve customers and help them save money and do better.

"So we will keep an eye with a long term view, stay involved and in the meantime build our cash and carry business to serve the customers," he said.

The retailer and Bharti Enterprises had last year decided to independently own and operate separate business formats in the country. Walmart is looking for a partner in India.

In December 2013, Walmart received the green signal from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to purchase Bharti group's almost 50 per cent stake in their Indian joint venture for wholesale stores business.

The joint venture - Bharti Walmart Private Ltd - was set up to operate wholesale stores under the Best Price Modern Wholesale brand. It was not catering directly to retail consumers in the country.

Walmart has been lobbying with American lawmakers since 2008 for facilitating its entry into the Indian market, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed by the company in the US.

A probe ordered by the Indian government in December 2012, into lobbying activities undertaken by Walmart to enter Indian retail market remained inconclusive.

The one-man inquiry panel, in its report tabled in the Rajya Sabha last month, could not "conclude in the absence of any material evidence available on record up till now, that Walmart indulged in any lobbying/bribery to Indian officials".

Lobbying is a legal activity in the US, but all the companies and their registered lobbyists need to file quarterly disclosure reports with the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In its Action Taken Report on Walmart probe, the government had said it would initiate fresh action against Walmart if an ongoing 'foreign corrupt practices' probe by US authorities reveals any violation in India by the retail giant.