NEW YORK — With its growing middle class, India is high on Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s to-do list for international expansion.

The Bentonville, Ark., retailer already operates an 80-plus-person sourcing office in Bangalore, one of India’s largest cities. The company will import more than $600 million worth of goods directly from Indian factories this year, up from $400 million in 2005, said Wal-Mart International spokeswoman Beth Keck. That number does not include goods produced in India by Wal-Mart’s domestic suppliers, which pushed the amount of goods sourced from the country to over $1 billion last year, according to several published reports.

Last year, Wal-Mart’s chief executive officer H. Lee Scott said he’d like to see retail operations in India, Russia and several Eastern European countries. John Menzer, formerly ceo of Wal-Mart International and now vice chairman in charge of Wal-Mart U.S., visited New Delhi last year to meet with Indian officials.

Speaking at a Citigroup conference early last month, Menzer has India on his mind. He mentioned the country at the top of his speech, saying Wal-Mart “would consider opportunities if India changes its rules governing direct foreign investment.” He added that Wal-Mart was ahead of many of its corporate peers in “developing that next large, long-term platform for growth, and that’s international” expansion.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer by revenues, is hoping to leverage its buying clout into permission to open stores in India. In 2005, it filed an application to open a Bangalore office devoted to business development. If that request is approved, an executive from the company’s headquarters would move to Bangalore.

This story first appeared in the March 13, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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