Retail giant Walmart launched on Monday a new supplier development programme to train 50,000 micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to equip them to contribute to the global supply chain and expand domestic capabilities.

The Walmart Vriddhi Supplier Development Program will connect the network of supplier development communities that Walmart already has in India. The company said that helping local suppliers to become part of the wider supply chain in India and globally will help create domestic jobs and sustained growth for the Indian MSME sector. The company did not specify the amount of investment in the programme, but said it will be sector-agnostic.

“We’re not chasing a headline. We are very thoughtful about it. When we say we’re going to train 50,000 MSMEs, it’s not a small number, but we know we can deliver on that. A big part of our success around the world is that we were able to tap into supply chains in an efficient way,” Judith McKenna, president and chief executive officer, Walmart International, said at the launch in New Delhi.

The company will also work with local partners to open 25 institutes over five years across India to make training accessible locally.

“Over the past decade, we have worked deliberately and consistently to bring Indian MSMEs into our supply chain. That’s because not only is it good for business but also because we have a long-term commitment to India. It not only makes good business sense but when the communities we serve flourish, so does the entire local economy,” McKenna said.

“Today, our Walmart India Cash & Carry stores source 95% of what they sell from India,” she added. Currently, India is among the top five sourcing markets for the company, after the U.S., China, Mexico, and Canada.

A company official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that this programme will enable Indian MSMEs to supply to its competitors, too. “It will increase Indian exports… it can be to our competitors, it can be to any supply chain around the world. We think that’s very unique—make in India for the world. It’s really good for our business because if India’s small businesses are successful then Walmart will be successful and Flipkart will be successful. We’re investing in the future of our business and we’re investing in the future of India,” said the official.

The announcement comes amid rising protests against online retailers including Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon India across India for pushing sales through deep discounts violating the new rules meant to protect local businesses. Some trade bodies had said that predatory pricing by online marketplaces during the festive season of Diwali led to a huge drop in sales for their members. In the wake of this development, commerce minister Piyush Goyal said that selling products at cheaper prices causing losses for the retail sector was not allowed. The government is working on a revamped e-commerce policy, the draft of which was released in February.

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