World's largest retailer Walmart Inc on Monday, 13 January said it has sacked 56 of its executives in India, including eight from senior management level, as it restructures its business in the country.
In a statement, Walmart India President and CEO Krish Iyer said the company "remains committed" to growing its wholesale retail business in India.
Most of the sacking was in Walmart's real estate division that is responsible for store expansion, implying the firm was facing challenges in expanding its wholesale business.
Walmart operates 28 wholesale stores in India, selling goods to small shopkeepers but not to retail consumers because of government rules aimed at protecting Kirana stores do not allow such sales.
“We are also looking for ways to operate more efficiently, which requires us to review our corporate structure to ensure that we are organised in the right way. As part of this review, we have let go of 56 of our associates across levels at the corporate office.”Krish Iyer, CEO, Walmart India
All of the 56 impacted associates, eight in the senior management and 48 in the middle as well as lower management, have been offered enhanced severance benefits and outplacement services to support their transition, he added.
He, however, denied reports of a second round of job cuts in April as part of an overall plan to shut down its physical presence in the country after struggling to return a profit.
The 56 executives laid off make up for 1 percent of Walmart’s overall workforce in India.
The job cuts come amid rising competition. US e-commerce giant Amazon has partnered with India's leading retailer, Future Retail Ltd (FRL) to expand in the country, while Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani recently launched an online retailer Jio Mart, offering free home delivery for thousands of grocery products.
Iyer, however, ruled out a second round of layoffs, terming the speculation as baseless and incorrect.
He said the company remains committed to growing its B2B cash and carry business in India.
Walmart opened six new best price modern wholesale stores, one fulfillment center, and the company's sales grew 22 per cent in 2019, he added.
“We have recently made significant investments to serve our members better and will continue to do so. This includes investments in our brick and mortar stores as well as e-commerce.”Krish Iyer, CEO, Walmart India
"Our members are increasingly becoming omni-channel shoppers. We are thus investing heavily in technology and have a healthy pipeline of best price stores. This will provide our members with a truly omni-channel and convenient shopping experience in the future," Iyer noted.
Layoffs at Walmart's brick and mortar business began after it bought a majority stake in e-commerce retailer Flipkart in 2018 in an around USD 16 billion deal.
Walmart, as per its strategy to strengthen presence in the Indian market and also compete head-on with global rival Amazon, had announced a mega-deal in 2018 to pick up 77 percent stake in Flipkart.
Walmart had started B2B e-commerce in July 2014 from its Lucknow and Hyderabad ‘Best Price Store’ and was later extended to other stores.
It was among one of the first companies in India, which had adopted the omni-channel retail system by integrating online and offline formats here.
Amazon's partnership with Future Retail will make the US e-commerce giant the official online channel for the Indian firm's more than 1,500 stores across 400 Indian cities. As part of the deal, Amazon will add Future Retail's grocery products on its two-hour Prime Now delivery programme in India.
Ambani on the other hand, already owns India's biggest retail chain, Reliance Retail, and has made no secret of his goal of building an e-commerce platform to rival Amazon and Walmart.