Wal-Mart chief executive Mike Duke, said he is “encouraged” by the progress he has seen from India in opening up foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

Speaking at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry yesterday (25 October), Duke said he “applauds the steps that have been taken to have an open, thoughtful and forward-moving discussion” around FDI.

Duke said he was “very pleased” with the Bharti-Walmart joint venture, which operates four cash-and-carry outlets in the country and added the business expects to open 10-15 outlets within the next two years, creating 5,000 jobs.

The Wal-Mart boss also highlighted the company’s plans to buy directly from 35,000 small and medium farmers in India by the end of 2015. He added that there is a “great opportunity to support the Indian farmer and sustainable agriculture” with FDI as 30-40% of fresh produce in India does not make it to the consumer.

“Modern retail will invest in a sustainable food supply chain for India’s growing population,” Duke said.

India’s retail sector is largely closed to foreign companies. However, the country’s government took a tentative step towards opening its organised retail sector to overseas investors in July, calling for comments from stakeholders.