Walmart Stores has opened a fulfilment centre, or ‘dark store’, in India, one of its first globally, in an effort to speed up operations in the country, which is fast adopting online retail services, a media report said.
The 45,000 square feet centre at Bhiwandi near Mumbai will serve kirana stores and other B2B businesses through online orders and will mostly stock packaged consumer products and home supplies.
“Metro cities are great markets for consumers but availability of large real estate at a reasonable cost is a challenge,” said Krish Iyer, CEO at Walmart India. Nearly half its sales are generated out of its 20-odd big-box formats through online and sales staff ordering, he said.
The Indian unit of the world’s largest retailer launched its online platform for members of Best Price Modern Wholesale stores three years ago. But that was restricted to cities with the stores. The company will now start an online platform without a physical store.
“The idea was conceived nearly a year ago and we first piloted it in Lucknow,” Iyer said. “Last-mile delivery and the time taken are a challenge but we have to manage that. We have promised delivery within 24 hours to our members.”
Global rival Amazon opened its largest fulfilment centre in India on the outskirts of Hyderabad over a month ago, raising the overall number of centres and warehouses to about 45.
Walmart’s store expansion, which was put on hold for a few years, will begin aggressively, said the company. “We will open 5-7 stores next year and add another 8-10 in the subsequent year,” said Iyer.
About four years ago, Walmart agreed to buy Bharti’s 50% stake in their wholesale business that operated Best Price Modern Wholesale stores and terminated franchise and supply agreements related to almost 200 Easyday retail stores. With the joint venture getting dissolved, Walmart now sells goods only to traders, institutions and kiranas, the report further said.