Walmart to Track Response First
This will be a large warehouse where products are packaged and shipped to consumers specifically for its online business. “Walmart India is extending the B2B e-commerce platform to its Best Price store members (kirana stores and other business members), providing them with a convenient online shopping opportunity,” a Walmart India spokesperson said in an e-mail. “As an exclusive virtual store for its members, the e-commerce platform will provide a similar assortment of products, as well as special items,” the spokesperson said, adding the company expects to extend the online service to all its stores in the coming months. India bars overseas investments in e-commerce ventures that sell directly to consumers, prompting companies such as Amazon and eBay Inc. to function as platforms on which other vendors offer their products. There has been talk of the incoming government easing restrictions on overseas investment in B2C ecommerce ventures. Walmart will gauge the response for its online initiative for four-five months before taking the venture to all the 20 cities where Best Price stores are operational, according to a person with direct knowledge of the development. Walmart wants to first see how the process works in two distinctly different markets, this person said, adding that the idea is to move to nationwide delivery.
The company will start by offering the 5,000-10,000 SKUs or stock keeping units available in the physical stores, then scale up the range.
“For online, we don’t have the constraint we have on physical stores. Therefore, we can eventually have innumerable products,” said the first person cited above. Indeed, Walmart's global online rival Amazon offers more than 1 crore items through its marketplace model in India. Scott Price, former Asia head for Walmart, had told ET in an interview in April about the company’s plans for the B2B site.
“We found that many kiranas drive 30-40 miles to do their shopping and spend a day. It is very difficult for some kirana owners to travel drive that far. That's why we are launching the B2B e-commerce platform where the kirana will be able to order online and get their products delivered," he had said. Walmart has already opened a member support centre in Noida to help its Best Price club members.