Daily Archives: March 3, 2008

Walmart in India-Some more thoughts

I need to qualify my conclusions in the earlier post. There is a possibility that Walmart may not be just another supermarket, where India’s new rich shop,but will also be a recourse of cheap shopping for the lower income groups who currently shop at the smaller grocery stores.

Why do I change my stance? The answer lies in the shopping behavior of an average middle class family in India. The reason they shop in the small grocery stores (kirana dukan as called in Maharashtra) is not only because it is cheap but also because most of these stores provide a credit line to their customers. You shop for a month and clear your dues at the end of the month. At least that’s how the kirana stores do business in most of the parts of my home state.

So it seems if Walmart is able to provide customers a credit line in some form or other, then it could potentially win over the customers who shop at kirana stores. There is still one problem though. Because of proximity to the customers and a personal relationship, it is easier for the kirana store to verify and monitor the credit standing of their customers. Therefore, a kirana store is able to provide credit to a customer who otherwise may find himself without any access to formal credit markets because of his income level. Walmart will have to rely on formal credit markets and still find a way to compete with the kirana stores in offering credit.

Thus, the key issue is whether Walmart will be ready to assume the credit risk to entice the common Indian consumer and change the retail market in India as it did in North America or be happy with a large market share in a still niche market. This indeed will be one of the key determinants of its success in India apart from the supply chain issues.

PS: So now you know why the supermarket on Sinhagad road in Pune closed down. It did not study its customers well. They were not only price sensitive but also credit constrained. Hence, reduction in price or other bundling strategies only worked to a certain extent. The business still remained with the kirana stores.


Filed under India-US: Some Conundrums, indian economy