Modern Retail Vanguard   //   August 16, 2023  ■  2 min read

Modern Retail Vanguard: Michelle Mi, Walmart

The inaugural Modern Retail Vanguard list highlights the behind-the-scenes talent propelling the world’s top retail brands. To read more about who else we selected and why, click here.

Michelle Mi has played an instrumental role in helping the largest U.S. retailer tap into the world’s fastest-growing economy. 

Walmart wants to export $10 billion worth of goods from India every year by 2027, and as the vice president, emerging markets and business development for International Operations at Walmart, it is Mi’s job to help the company meet that goal. 

Walmart’s objectives in India are two fold: the company wants to provide local customers with affordable goods, and introduce Indian brands to customers around the world. 

“We currently see great potential for India-made products in highly searched categories such as fashion, home, kitchen, beauty and more,” Mi says.

Walmart’s operating history in India is nearly 15 years old. The U.S. retailer first entered India in partnership with local telecom giant Bharti Group, and opened its first wholesale store in India in 2009. This partnership, however, ended in 2013 over allegations of mismanagement and for flouting foreign investment laws in India.

But Walmart’s fortunes in the country changed five years later. In May 2018, it acquired a 77% stake in India’s largest e-commerce firm, Flipkart, for $16 billion. The Flipkart acquisition has led Walmart to be ranked among India’s top retail companies, outpacing rival Amazon. Walmart CFO John David Rainey recently said India is set to become Walmart’s largest international market this year. 

To grow Indian exports, Walmart launched a program in 2019 called Walmart Vriddhi, which means growth, to mentor 50,000 small and medium-sized enterprises across India. Mi said 30,000 companies have graduated from the program, with over 5,000 of them currently transacting on the Flipkart marketplace. 

Beginning in January 2022, Walmart also started integrating Indian merchants to its U.S. marketplace. Walmart is now selling products from Indian brands like Rage Coffee, a plant based coffee brand founded in 2018 and backed by loved Indian cricketer Virat Kohli. 

Now, the focus is on helping even more Indian merchants sell to the West through Walmart’s marketplace model. That was the focus during Walmart’s Global Seller Summit, held last September in New Delhi. 

“When Sam Walton founded the company 60 years ago his vision was quite simple — to give the small rural towns access to goods and services that would help them save money and live better,” Mi says. “That’s why the company has been pursuing Indian sellers and inviting them to partner with Walmart.”