New Delhi: There was an uproar in the Rajya Sabha over news reports on Walmart lobbying for its entry into India. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ravi Shankar Prasad raised the issue in the Upper House and said, "There should be an inquiry into who was paid by Walmart."
Prasad said the reports were a serious matter at a time when FDI in retail was cleared in both Houses of Parliament. "At a time when floor management in the House to get FDI in retail passed is being talked about, reports of Walmart mentioning expenditure of 125 crores for lobbying to enter into the lucrative Indian market are a serious matter. The decision should be put on hold, inquiry should be ordered and the government should respond. Lobbying is a crime in India," the BJP leader said.
Following the uproar, both Congress MP Rajiv Shukla and MoS PMO V Narayanasamy said the concerned department will look into the matter. However, the uproar continued and the House had to be adjourned for 10 minutes and then further till 2 pm.
Walmart - waiting for years to open its supermarkets in India - has been lobbying with the US lawmakers since 2008 to facilitate its entry into the highly lucrative Indian market. As per the lobbying disclosure reports filed by Walmart with the US Senate, the company has spent close to $25 million (about Rs 125 crore) since 2008 on its various lobbying activities, including on the issues related to "enhanced market access for investment in India".
In the last quarter ended September 30, 2012 itself, the company spent $1.65 million (about Rs 10 crore) on various lobbying issues, which included "discussions related to FDI in India". During the quarter, Walmart lobbied for its case with the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, the US Trade
Representative (USTR) and the US Department of State, as per its latest quarterly disclosure report. The companies are allowed to lobby for their cases in various departments and agencies in the US, but they are required to file their lobbying disclosure reports every quarter with the US Senate. So far in 2012, Walmart has spent more than $3 million or about Rs 18 crore on its various lobbying activities, including those related to India.
As per Walmart's lobbying disclosure reports, the company has continuously lobbied for its India entry since 2008, except for a few quarters in 2009. Indian government recently opened up its multi-brand retail sector for foreign companies after years of political opposition and a Parliament motion against this decision was defeated last week in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
The US-based supermarket chain operator Walmart Stores, which has an annual turnover of USD 444 billion and a world-wide headcount of 2.2 million, has been eyeing for a long time to enter India. The Indian retail market is estimated to be worth about $500 billion currently and is pegged to cross $1 trillion mark by 2020, given the rising personal income and growing consumer spending trends.
According to a report by global consultancy major AT Kearney, the organised retail is expected to reach 25 per cent of the overall market by 2020. The report also said that India remains one of the most favourable destinations for international retailers and an accelerated retail growth of 15-20 per cent is expected over the next five years.
(With additional information from PTI)