With e-commerce finding greater acceptability in India, US retailer Walmart is set to take its cash-and-carry stores to the virtual space to give its customers the convenience of online shopping and doorstep delivery.
The company has chalked out plans to launch a pilot project for this initiative in two cities, which will be extended across the country. The company has 20 Best Price Modern Wholesale stores in the country at present, and plans to add 50 stores over five years.
A Walmart spokesperson in India confirmed that the company is extending the B2B e-commerce platform to members of its Best Price Modern Whole stores. "As an exclusive virtual store for its members, the e-commerce platform will provide a similar assortment of products, as well as special items," he said. "We are launching a pilot for B2B e-commerce this summer and we would expect to extend to all stores after we have successfully launched the pilot."
Best Price stores are located in cities such as Amritsar, Zirakpur, Agra, Meerut, Lucknow, Kota and Ludhiana.
A cash-and-carry store is different from a retail store in that its customers constitute retailers such as kirana store owners, restaurants, offices and other small traders. An individual customer cannot walk-in and buy products from a cash-and-carry store. Customers have to be registered member at the store.
The online initiative by the company is indicative of the fact that the world’s largest retailer is willing to start afresh in India’s fast growing retail landscape after called off its six-year old joint venture with Bharti group due to differences over business operations.
Even though India allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, global retailers have been chary of making big-bang announcements fearing that the elections may throw up a new regime at the Centre, which may bring roadblocks for FDI in multi-brand retail.
The BJP, which is widely expected to come out trumps when election results are announced on May 16, has already made it clear that it is not in favour of FDI in multi-brand retail.
However, India does allow 100% FDI in cash-and-carry wholesales stores, both in the brick and mortar format and the online format, which appears to be the driving reasoning behind Walmart’s future strategy in the country.