Opening up foreign direct investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector will create new opportunities for India's Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector, said Walmart CEO, Mike Duke in New Delhi on Tuesday.
"The global retail partners with India can help create opportunity for small and medium enterprises. SMEs are the backbone of this economy. They produce, export and employ," Duke said in an interactive meet organized by FICCI in the national capital.
At present, India's $450-billion retail sector, which comprises primarily small stores providing livelihoods for hundreds of thousands people, is largely closed to foreign firms.
According to recent news reports, however, the government is divided on retail FDI; while the Finance Ministry is opposed to any change in the existing retail FDI policy, the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Ministries, and the Planning Commission, are open to the proposal mooted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Commenting on Walmart's current operations in India, Duke said that the company is working hand in hand with a woman-owned SME called 'Spicy Treat Pickles' based in Punjab where they have provided this SME with improved standards in their production facility and trained their workforce to operate in more hygienic conditions.
Further speaking in the sidelines of the meeting, Duke said that Walmart has not made any projection on the volume of investment likely to be made, if FDI in multi-brand retail is opened.
When asked why India is an important market for Wal-mart to make huge investments, he said India has impressed him by showing potential economic stability and growth even in the midst of the crisis period that has hit the global economy adversely.