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Wal-Mart to launch e-commerce marketplace in India in July

By Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N will launch its business-to-business e-commerce platform in the Indian cities of Lucknow and Hyderabad in the first week of July, its India boss said on Friday.

The world's largest retailer has 20 wholesale outlets in India, including in Lucknow and Hyderabad, which will support its e-commerce services, its India Chief Executive Officer Krish Iyer said.

It would look at rolling out the service to the remaining 18 outlets as well, Iyer said, but not for another six months at least.

"We will not start rolling out to the other 18 stores for the next six months because we will learn from any teething problems and feedback from members," Iyer told Reuters.

In April, Wal-Mart said it planned to open 50 more wholesale outlets in India over four to five years and start online operations to sell to small shopkeepers, several months after it decided against opening its own retail stores.

The e-commerce service will be available only to its trader members, Iyer said.

India restricts global online retailers from selling their products directly to consumers.

But sources told Reuters this month India could allow global online retailers such as Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O to sell their own products directly to consumers as early as July, removing restrictions that have held back competition in one of the world's biggest retail markets.

Wal-Mart does not have any immediate plans to sell directly to consumers through its e-commerce service, Iyer said.

"We will continue to focus only on business-to-business... but that does not mean we will not look at it," he said.

Iyer said Wal-Mart's wholesale stores currently cater to consumers within a 20-km radius and the e-commerce business will help the company serve customers from within a 40-km radius of its stores.

Wal-Mart has been operating under the wholesale format in India since 2007. The company's desire to enter India with supermarkets has been met with fierce opposition from small shopkeepers and political parties.

((Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Susan Thomas))

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