Walmart will focus on ensuring compliance best practices and building a strong supply chain for Flipkart across India, says Judith McKenna, President and CEO of Walmart International.Tenzin Pema
A year after global retail giant Walmart signed the cheque to acquire homegrown ecommerce firm Flipkart, the U.S. retailer is ‘extremely excited’ about continuing to invest in India, says Judith McKenna, President and CEO of Walmart International. Still, for the moment, Walmart will focus on ‘specific areas’ that can drive real value for its business, she added.
Judith McKenna, who in April-May visited Flipkart and its other group companies – fashion retailer Myntra and fintech startup PhonePe, said,
“Over the course of the next year, we’ll find some specific areas where we think (there’s) true value in, for both businesses (Flipkart and PhonePe), and then we’ll go in a little deeper into those, rather than try to do too many different things."
In India, Walmart is focusing on areas such as setting up strong compliance practices in its group companies and building a robust supply chain network at not just Flipkart, but across India through its Walmart India business, Judith added, while speaking at an event on the sidelines of the company's annual shareholder meeting.
“One of the other areas that we’ve been working on is compliance and making sure we bring world-class compliance to the business as well, which is an important part of the future journey,” said Judith, who heads more than 5,900 retail units and 700,000 associates across 26 countries at Walmart.
In April-May, Judith was on a four-day internal business visit to Flipkart to interact with the group's leadership team and employees. Her visit followed close on the heels of Walmart CEO Doug McMillan's India visit, which coincided with the one-year anniversary of Walmart's $16 billion acquisition of Flipkart.
At the time, Flipkart Group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said Flipkart’s partnership with Walmart is helping the Group better serve Indian customers and accelerate its growth with products and solutions that solve real problems in the country. These include supply-chain infrastructure that is disrupting the industry to benefit local consumers, suppliers, and manufacturers.
Indeed, the primary focus for Walmart in India will be leveraging its expertise and know-how in building a strong supply chain globally and replicating that success in India.
“One of the hallmarks for the future of India will be a strong supply chain across the nation -- that’s one of the areas we are experts in. We might not have the right answers but we certainly have some folks who can help stimulate that conversation,” said Judith McKenna.
To be sure, Walmart too is learning a thing or two from ten-year-old Indian ecommerce giant Flipkart and over-two-year-old digital payments firm PhonePe. These learnings for Walmart include operating to scale without slowing down, Judith said.
“There are a few things in the way they operate, which is very different from anywhere around the world. We are learning how to do that in the right way... They (Flipkart and PhonePe) are teaching us how to operate to scale without slowing down and how to go at speed. So, we both are learning as we go on this journey,” she added.
Flipkart’s use of data to solve customer-specific problems in India and the inherent talent in the Flipkart, Myntra, and PhonePe teams have particularly impressed Walmart global executives.
“What we are really fascinated by the (Flipkart and India) business is how customer-centric it is, how they use data in innovative ways to solve customer specific problems for India, and also the talent in the teams there. I think PhonePe is a very similar kind of idea and I’m very impressed with the work they are doing. I think they can help inform us about what we are doing with the rest of the world,” said Judith.
In May, following Judith's India visit, she had praised the creativity and passion of the team and commended the leadership for its commitment to bringing ecommerce to more Indian consumers to make their lives better.
"The business has lot of levers in it and as we understand more about the business and are excited about the way Kalyan and Sameer (Nigam of PhonePe) think about their businesses, and engineering the business that will be sustainable for a long term. We continue to work with them."
Nevertheless, for Walmart, its current focus for Flipkart, Myntra, and PhonePe will be ‘going deeper’ into areas where these businesses can benefit from Walmart’s global standards in retail supply chain network building and compliance pracitices.
As Judith says, “At the moment, the real focus that we’ve got is to make Flipkart and PhonePe the very best Flipkart and PhonePe that they can be.”