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India commerce minister cancels Walmart meet
October 31, 2013, 3:21 pm

People shopping in a Bharti-Walmart store in India (AP Images)

The ministry source said Walmart has not clearly spelt out their India plans [AP]

Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Thursday cancelled a meeting with Walmart Asia CEO Scott Price.

The meeting, scheduled for Friday, has been cancelled and could be a “snub” to Walmart, a top source in the Commerce Ministry told Indian news agency PTI.

Price wanted an appointment with Sharma after the US retail giant ended ties with Bharti Enterprises.

The ministry source said Walmart has not clearly spelt out their India plans and the policy support they require.

“Walmart officials have met us several times and have always raised one or other new issue. They are not conveying what exactly they want,” said the source.

After the Indian government allowed 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail last year, Walmart had expressed its inability to meet a norm on sourcing 30 per cent of its requirement from local small industries.

While the US company had requested clarifications on the sourcing requirement, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, a wing of the Commerce Ministry, said there is no plan to relax the norm.

Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said earlier this month that Walmart will be a “speck” in India’s market and its absence would not make a huge difference in the country.

“Walmart will be a speck in India’s retail market. India’s retail market is driven by millions of standalone stores. It has been strengthened by Indian retail chains. So why do we assume that Walmart will make a huge difference to India’s retail market?” said Chidambaram.

Bharti Enterprises and Walmart announced on October 9 that they were to end their six-year partnership and operate in the Indian retail sector individually.

The two companies joined hands in 2007 and started their first wholesale store in Amritsar in May 2009.

The enforcement directorate of the Indian Finance Ministry had also launched an investigation into whether Walmart broke foreign exchange rules when it invested $100 million in an Indian consultancy that also runs supermarkets.

Source: Agencies

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