Wal-Mart upbeat on Best Price JV

Wal-Mart upbeat on Best Price JV

Wal-Mart Stores has insisted it is "optimistic" about growing its business in India amid speculation it is preparing to bring its wholesale partnership with Bharti Enterprises to an end.

Reports in India have claimed Wal-Mart has started talks with other companies in India to launch a consumer-facing business.

The US retailer teamed up with Indian conglomerate Bharti in 2007 to form a wholesale business. The first Best Price Modern Wholesale outlet opened two years later; according to Wal-Mart's website, the venture has 20 wholesale stores in the country. In recent months, the venture has been under scrutiny over alleged corruption.

"Wal-Mart is optimistic about growing our Best Price Wholesale cash-and-carry business in India, as well as future retail investment opportunities that can be made possible through a clear and predictable [foreign direct investment] policy," a spokesperson for the US retailer told just-food.

Reports have centred on the possibility Wal-Mart could establish a consumer-facing multi-brand retail banner in the country now the Indian government has relaxed rules on foreign direct investment.

"India is an important market for us and we continue to study the implications of the new FDI policy on our business... We appreciate the continued efforts by the Indian Government to clarify investment conditions. Reform of this policy will improve shopping options for customers, provide new markets to local suppliers and farmers, and improve supply chain infrastructure in the country," the spokesperson said. 

The company is said to be in discussions with a number of local partners over establishing a B2C retail arm. However, Wal-Mart remained silent on what it termed "rumours and speculation".

Wal-Mart has attracted considerable controversy in India, where it has been accused of illegal lobbying and bribery of Indian officials as it presses for a relaxation of FDI rules

In November, the Bharti Wal-Mart venture suspended a number of its employees, one of which was understood to be its CFO, while it investigated alleged violations of US anti-bribery laws.

The issue of foreign investment in multi-brand retail outlets has proven divisive in India, with concerns the expansion of large multinational retailers in the market will hurt SMEs.

Wal-Mart rebuffed these anxieties. "In every market where we operate, Walmart is a strong supporter of small and medium enterprises with a focus on those that provide our customers with competitive and quality products.

"Through Walmart's investment in India, including our Best Price Modern cash-and-carry business, supply chain infrastructure, direct farm program and supplier development, we not only want to serve customers but continue to make important social and environmental contributions to the country."