Flipkart announced on Thursday it has acquired Walmart India to bolster its wholesale marketplace operations, and in doing so, has made plans to launch a new digital marketplace next month.
The new digital marketplace, called Flipkart Wholesale, will provide wholesale goods to kiranas in India. Kiranas are independent retailers and small businesses, similar to neighbourhood stores, that sell a variety of retail products.
"Kiranas and MSMEs are central to India's retail ecosystem and Flipkart Wholesale will focus on meeting their needs by providing small businesses a wide selection at significant value, powered by technology to make their lives easier," Flipkart said.
With the acquisition, Flipkart said its supply chain will be strengthened due to the addition of Walmart India's 5,000 employees and its 28 member-only Best Price stores. Best Price currently has over 1.5 million members, Flipkart said, which include kiranas, eateries, and small and medium-sized businesses.
Flipkart added that the wholesale business has already signed up "top Indian brands, local manufacturers, and sellers across the country" in the leadup to the service commencing next month.
"For over a decade, we've been committed to India's prosperity by serving kiranas and MSMEs, supporting smallholder farmers, and building global sourcing and technology hubs throughout the country," Walmart CEO and president Judith McKenna said.
"Today marks the next big step as Walmart India's pioneering cash-and-carry legacy meets Flipkart's culture of innovation in the launch of Flipkart Wholesale."
Flipkart Wholesale is set to launch in August and will initially provide grocery and fashion products.
The new service will be headed by Flipkart vice president Adarsh Menon. Meanwhile, Walmart India CEO Sameer Aggarwal will remain with Flipkart during the takeover period, after which time he will move to another role within Walmart.
Earlier this month, Walmart led a $1.2 billion equity round to increase its majority stake in Flipkart to 82%. Prior to this, Walmart had a 77% stake in Flipkart that was acquired for $16 billion back in 2018.
As Flipkart ramps up its efforts in targeting kiranas, other big e-commerce players in India have done the same. Reliance Jio unveiled a grocery platform, JioMart, in April when Facebook announced it had injected $5.7 billion into the company. Jio Mart offers online groceries and supplies to consumers, but rather than doing warehousing like Amazon, it connects offline kiranas to online customers.
Reliance Jio also previously said it had plans to bring 5 million kiranas that make over $12,000 a month into the digital economy by 2023. This would entail installing a digital backend for the kiranas, adding a Jio mobile point-of-sale device, and giving them some supply chain software, and teaching them inventory management skills, the company said.
Meanwhile, Amazon has launched Smart Stores, which is aimed at providing kiranas with software to allow customers to view products more easily. Smart Stores allows customers to scan a QR code using the Amazon app to view products.
There are currently over 12 million kirana stores in India.