Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Are you a woman entrepreneur? You can now supply to Walmart

Krish Iyer, President and CEO of Walmart India talks about the retail giant's initiatives to focus on increasing the diversity in its supply chain in the country

Paramita Chatterjee
Published: Apr 14, 2017 07:59:40 PM IST
Updated: Apr 17, 2017 12:15:06 PM IST

Are you a woman entrepreneur? You can now supply to WalmartKrish Iyer is the President and CEO of Walmart India
Image courtesy: Walmart

If you are a woman entrepreneur, own, manage and control 51 percent of your business and clock a minimum turnover of Rs 10 lakh, you can now supply to Walmart India.

The global retail giant recently felicitated as many as 32 women entrepreneurs in its pilot Walmart Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme in India, in an attempt to strengthen its focus on increasing diversity in the supply chain. Of them, the retailer has identified eight entrepreneurs as suppliers, since their products fitted the assortment.

Going forward, Walmart India plans to launch a similar programme to train women entrepreneurs in professional and soft skills to help them build businesses. Walmart India is a wholly-owned subsidiary of US retail giant Walmart Stores.

“As far as gender diversity or gender equality is concerned, India is not at a great place,” said Krish Iyer, President and CEO, Walmart India, on the sidelines of the graduation ceremony of the Walmart Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme.

“It becomes the responsibility of both public and private sector to provide a level playing field to women for creating equal opportunity,” he added.

In September 2011, Walmart launched its Global Women’s Economic Empowerment initiative and through it, by the end of 2016, it could source $20 billion from women for its US business. In India, where Walmart has about 21 cash-and-carry stores, it currently has a pipeline of about 50 women suppliers on board.

In India, Walmart is currently present in states including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh among others. Going forward, it plans to strengthen its presence in the same states and ramp up the number to 50 by 2021. “We are on track. We have about 16 stores in the pipeline which are in different stages of construction,” said Iyer, adding, “We are currently not looking at new states but have been studying Karnataka with a lot of interest. A deeper penetration in existing states makes better business sense.”

When asked about whether Walmart is looking to foray into food retail, as the government now permits 100% FDI in the sector, Iyer said: “India is an attractive market ….opening 100 percent FDI in the food retail space is good step, a noble initiative that will help double farmers’ income, reduce food wastage, help development of cold storage and backend and will overall grow the economy.” Currently, more than 60 percent of Walmart’s business in India comprises food.

Edited excerpts of Krish Iyer’s conversation with Forbes India:

Q. Is the women entrepreneurship development programme a part of your CSR activity?
We don’t have an obligation to spend that 2 percent specified by the government as we are not yet a profitable company. At the same time, however, our core purpose is to save people’s money so that they can live better. In India, ours is a cash-and-carry business. Helping small businesses prosper by selling them goods at low prices is the mission. When you look at the customer angle, there is a creation of shared value already. We are a business and at the end of the day, a business must run profitably so that the creation of shared value remains sustainable. Nothing is pure CSR in that sense. When we look at our work in terms of educating women farmers, we focus on teaching them techniques for improving productivity. Within the organisation, we have a few programmes for developing women. We are in tier II/tier III towns and there it is not easy to get participation from women. But even then, we have about 16 percent participation from women in our stores.

Q. How did you pick and choose the women for your pilot women entrepreneurship project in India?
We looked at three main criteria. One, businesses that were 51 percent owned, controlled and managed by women. Two, those that generated a minimum turnover of Rs 10 lakh and third, businesses that have been in existence for 3 years or more. Besides, we also factored in our business needs, tried to look at gaps in our categories that women could come and fill in. Sectors where we saw most amount of participation include food, handicrafts and home décor. Outside the programme, there are other categories where we have women suppliers.

Q. While women are benefiting from this programme, what is the take home for Walmart?
As much as 80 percent of customers for retail and even in Walmart are women. In that case, encouraging women to become entrepreneurs makes a lot of sense. In the US, a research was carried out a few years ago where women-owned business products were perceived to be higher quality by the customers. So, I would say, all in all, it’s a strategic move.