* Raj Jain joined company in 2006, named country head in
* Wal-Mart has not opened new India wholesale outlet since
* Jain replaced in interim by former CEO of Woolworths India
By Aradhana Aravindan and Tony Munroe
MUMBAI, June 26 Wal-Mart Stores Inc, hit
by a series of setbacks in its efforts to crack the promising
but restrictive India market, said its country head had left the
The departure of Raj Jain, who joined Wal-Mart in 2006 and
became head of its Indian unit the following year, comes as the
Bentonville, Arkansas-based company struggles to expand in one
of the last big untapped markets for global supermarket chains.
In a statement on Wednesday, the world's largest retailer
said it has named Ramnik Narsey as interim head of its India
business, without explaining the change.
Narsey joined Wal-Mart last month after serving as chairman
and chief executive officer for Woolworths India, a unit of
Woolworths, Australia's biggest supermarket chain.
Jain could not be immediately reached on his mobile phone,
and the company declined to make Narsey available for comment.
Wal-Mart, which has run wholesale stores in India since
2009, lobbied for nearly six years to enter the retail segment.
In September last year, India finally allowed global supermarket
operators to set up 51 percent-owned retail outlets. But no
international chain has come forward to apply for a licence as
the rules have continued to evolve.
"I am not surprised," said Harminder Sahni, managing
director at Gurgaon-based retail consultancy Wazir Advisors,
commenting on Jain's departure. "Their biggest agenda was to get
multi-brand retail clarifications in a manner that it is
conducive. That has not come about."
Wal-Mart has been the most aggressive among global
supermarket chains trying to set up in India, but in recent
months had run into a series of speed bumps.
Wal-Mart, whose India joint venture partner is Bharti
Enterprises, has not opened a new wholesale store in the country
since October last year despite announcing plans to open eight
in 2013. It has 20 such stores in India.
In November, the joint venture suspended staff members
including its chief financial officer as it investigated alleged
violations of U.S. anti-bribery laws.
While global supermarket chains such as Tesco PLC
and Carrefour SA covet entry into Asia's third-largest
economy - where roughly 90 percent of the $500 billion in retail
sales is conducted at informal or stand-alone stores -
regulations have proved daunting.
New rules unveiled earlier this month requiring foreign
supermarkets to set up their own warehouses and stores in India
are expected to delay further the entry of global operators,
increase costs and hurt cash-strapped local retailers eager to
partner with foreign companies.
Many Indian states, meanwhile, have opted not to sign on to
the policy allowing global supermarket chains as they worry that
mom-and-pop operators would be out of business.
Wal-Mart has also had to deal with an ongoing Indian
investigation into whether it flouted rules when it made a $100
million investment in a consultancy firm. The company has said
it complied with the rules.
"We remain optimistic about our business in India and look
forward to our future in India under Ramnik's leadership," Scott
Price, president and chief executive officer for Wal-Mart Asia,
said in the statement on Wednesday.