April 10, 2005
Going shopping with Wal-Mart
Then: Last July, when Wal-Mart first approached Himachal Pradesh-based PA Time Industries to source inexpensive watches, it went about the task quietly and methodically. After checking out the company's manufacturing unit up north to start with, a team from Wal-Mart sat down with PA's marketing honchos and went over product costing, component by component. Where are the movements sourced from, how much does the steel cost, what about the plating… Next, Wal-Mart's director of finance flew down to Bangalore for a presentation, followed by the product head. That done, another team of inspectors paid a visit to the company's factory to look at its work practices: Are the workers being paid fair wages? Are any children being employed illegally? Do working mothers have a crche facility?… Eight months on, PA's sample watches are being tested at Wal-Mart's technical factory in China. An approval is expected in April this year. If PA, which sells its watches under the Maxima brand and claims to be the secondlargest manufacturer after Titan Industries, is putting itself through an elaborate approval process without as much as a whimper, it is because of the buyer in question. With annual revenues of $256 billion (Rs 11,26,400 crore), the Bentonville-based retailer is the world's biggest. Getting a foot in the Wal-Mart door can, quite simply, transform the fortunes of a company.
Now: Wal-Mart has developed a network of suppliers in the country. India has emerged as an important supplier of textiles, apparel, home products and jewellery to the world's largest retailer.