(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Opinion | Walmart’s web shift

In the US, Walmart was late to go online and is struggling against Amazon. In India, it has a better shot at eventual leadership

Walmart India has reportedly laid off more than 50 executives across business segments. The world’s top retailer also plans to shut its Mumbai fulfilment centre and halt physical-store expansion. Is this a momentary retreat, or does it mark a shift away from its brick-and-mortar model towards online retailing?

Walmart operates cash-and-carry stores in the country, and had piled up losses of nearly 2,200 crore by the end of March 2019. By all accounts, the regulatory environment has hamstrung its efforts to replicate its classic business model of large-format supermarkets here. Wholesale retail, it may have judged, isn’t making headway, even as foreign firms are barred from majority ownership of a multi-brand retail chain. Its $16 billion investment in Flipkart, in contrast, holds far greater promise. As in the West, India is witnessing the mass adoption of online shopping, and it is here that the US-based retailer probably expects to establish its dominance. Amazon is its main rival, as of now, and a Reliance entry could turn it into a truly sizzling market. In the US, Walmart was late to go online and is struggling against Amazon. In India, it has a better shot at eventual leadership.

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