American retail giant Wal-Mart hopes that its joint venture with Bharti Enterprises would help cushion against a possible slump in consumption in the US economy, a top company exectuive said on Wednesday.
Michael Duke, Vice Chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc, said the company's plans to enter the cash and carry trade in India and help partner company Bharti Enterprises roll out retail stores were on track, despite the recent political backlash against organised retailing in states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The first cash-and-carry outlet, a centre from where the company distributes products on a wholesale basis, would open by end of this year, he said. The company aims to set 10-15 such centres over the next 7 years.
These would offer backend support to a countrywide network of retail stores, which will be set up by Bharti Enterprises. Rajan Mittal, who heads Bharti's retail business, said the first store was likely to come up in August, but a detailed rollout plan would be unveiled only in April.
"Wal-Mart is at right place at the right time," Duke told reporters. "The consumer is under pressure in the US."
While the US faces a recession, India's retail market -- estimated to be $280 billion -- is growing more than 20 per cent annually. The Indian market is strategic to Wal-Mart, which has been trying to sustain its sales momentum by increasingly focussing on markets outside US. Its international sales rose 18.8 per cent to $27 billion through the past year, Duke said.
Duke said Wal-Mart is also trying to outsource more of its information technology-related work to India, where software routinely handle backoffice operations of many western companies.