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Walmart extending its e-commerce reach in India

20 September 2014

Two months after Walmart India launched its e-commerce platform for members of its wholesale stores in Hyderabad and Lucknow on 1 July, the US multinational is extending the online wholesale platform to its members in Guntur and Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh from 1 October.

''Starting October 1, members of Best Price wholesale stores in Guntur and Vijayawada can shop and book orders online,'' the company said in a statement.

The e-commerce platform will provide the same range of products as its wholesale stores, including a select variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, it added.

''Given the tremendous support from our members for this initiative, we will continue to extend this (e-commerce portal) in a phased manner to our other stores as well,'' Walmart India president and chief executive Krish Iyer said.

The platform, www.bestprice, is meant for registered members of Best Price Modern Wholesale stores.

Like Walmart India's cash-and-carry stores, its e-commerce platform also provides an assortment of products, as well as special items to its members.

Members can navigate the virtual store and place orders at its 24/7 interactive site. In addition to the delivery at their premises, it also offers convenient payment solutions to help them make faster business decisions, according to the company.

At present, Walmart is engaged in cash-and-carry business in India. It had exited a six-year alliance with Bharti Enterprises that involved running a cash-and-carry business jointly and providing expertise and support to Bharti's own front-end retail business in October last year (See: Walmart ends alliance with Bharti; to go slow with wholesale business).

The US retail giant now operates 20 wholesale stores under the brand 'Best Price' in India and is looking to enter the retail space at the right moment.

While Indian law allows foreign retailers to invest up to 51 per cent in supermarkets, this policy, drafted in 2012 when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in power, is now only on paper, with the new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government not in favour of it.

Trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman said soon after the new government assumed charge that the country would be better off without FDI in retail business (Better without FDI in multi-brand retail trade: commerce minister). She also recently stated that there were no applications from foreign retailers pending before the government.

The only international retailer that has come to India under the new policy is Tesco Plc, which has formed a 50:50 joint venture with Tata group company Trent Ltd in March, named Trent Hypermarket Ltd, for operating Star Bazaar retail business in India.

India's retail market is projected to be worth an estimated $554 billion, according to recent Crisil report. Only about 8 per cent of this is accounted for by organised retail. ''Retail is a big opportunity in India and we are watching the space on the policy front,'' said Iyer.

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