Walmart Inc. has fired more than 50 employees in India, including eight senior executives, as it restructures its business in the country. File picture: Steven Senne/AP

INTERNATIONAL - Walmart Inc. has fired more than 50 employees in India, including eight senior executives, as it restructures its business in the country, according to people familiar with the matter.

The cuts are due to a greater incorporation of technology into its local operations and a bigger focus on integrating e-commerce with its brick-and-mortar wholesale business, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorised to speak publicly about the restructuring.

A report from local daily The Economic Times, published on Monday, said that more job cuts are planned for April and that the company was planning to shut down its physical presence in the country after struggling to turn a profit. People familiar with the matter said that this was untrue and that the company plans to continue adding brick-and-mortar wholesale stores.

The world’s largest retailer “remains committed” to growing in India and keeps looking for ways to operate more effectively, it said in an emailed statement Monday. “This requires us to review our corporate structure.”

The job cuts come as competition grows fiercer in the local retail market. Amazon.com Inc. is stepping up investment, and Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is preparing to roll out his e-commerce venture.

Global retailers like Walmart have been stymied by regulations in India that are designed to protect local mom-and-pop stores -- known as kiranas -- from foreign competition. Prevented from selling directly to consumers, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company has focused on building a wholesale business that supplies local store-owners, and has also pivoted to e-commerce by acquiring Flipkart Online Services Pvt. for $16 billion in 2018.

Political pressure is now growing for stricter regulation of foreign-owned e-commerce platforms as well, while a broad consumption slowdown has added to retailers’ woes.

Bloomberg