'High society' of Wal-Mart moves to India


Only retail flunkies find the humor in news about store expansion, but this piece from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has something that really tickled. Potential shoppers in India are awestruck as they watch the first Wal-Mart supercenter get built.

Shoppers there have never seen an American discount store and for many, it's a symbol of wealth. One local is even caught equating Wal-Mart with high society.

Wal-Mart actually entered India in 2006, through a joint venture with a company there. Local laws prohibit foreign retailers from operating there and partnerships like Wal-Mart's with Bharti Enterprise are a way to get around the barrier. Even so, the law also prohibits Wal-Mart from selling directly to consumers, so this weekend Wal-Mart opens a club store there called Best Price Modern Wholesale.

Seems kind of a small story but India is a massive opportunity for Wal-Mart. Remember how crazy people got about doing business with China? All a company, any company, had to do was declare entry into the Chinese market and the stock shot up. Replace China with India and you've got some idea as to what that country means to retailers.

The largest democracy in the world, India is fragmented with no reliable distribution system to move goods. That happens to be one of Wal-Mart's specialties. The opportunity to build out its own network lets the folks from Arkansas do what they do best. Get product to consumers efficiently and cheaply, via a system they won't have to share with the competition.

Right now, it's just one store opening to the wide-eyed wonder of the locals. But in a few years? They won't even know what hit them.