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Wal-Mart India Changes Leader

Chief executive officer Raj Jain is being replaced for an interim period by Ramnik Narsey.

NEW DELHI — Wal-Mart India chief executive officer Raj Jain is being replaced for an interim period by Ramnik Narsey, the company said Wednesday.

Narsey, who has been with the company for less than a month, has been chairman and chief executive officer of Woolworths India, launched by the Australian supermarket chain.

Seven months ago, the chief financial officer of Wal-Mart India, Pankaj Madan, was suspended as investigations into potential violations of  U.S. anti-bribery laws were unearthed.

Jain was not available for comment, and the company would not elaborate about reasons for the change.

Retail analysts noted that the timing for the change of management is extremely sensitive, given the move by the Indian government last December allowing multi-brand retailers 51 percent foreign direct investment in India for the first time.

Wal-Mart has not yet made the move to enter the Indian market under this new policy.

The retail market in India is valued at more than $450 billion.
 
Wal-Mart India, which is a joint venture with Bharti Enterprises, was launched in 2007 and opened its first store in India in 2009. The entity operates 20 stores in the cash and carry format at this time.
 
Jain has been leading the company since it started in India and earlier observed that Wal-Mart was committed to growth in India.
 
Wal-Mart has been at the focal point of a series of retail dramas in India. There has been a hot debate about allowing foreign direct investment in retail, with Wal-Mart a favorite target for opposition parties to cite as the company that would put mom-and-pop stores out of business.

The company has been steadfastly committed to its positioning in the Indian market and lobbying the government for growth.