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Building a Skilled Workforce

In 2008, we celebrated the opening of this retail training school in Amritsar, Punjab. As India's first special skills training center collaboratively launched through a public-private partnership with the Punjab government, the school's aim is to help build a skilled workforce in India to help support cash-and-carry and organized retail operations — beyond Bharti Wal-Mart.

The training center's classroom locations were provided by the Punjab Government, and Wal-Mart's contributions include an annual financial commitment for the center's operating expenses, assistance developing the curriculum and 100 percent scholarship support for every enrolled student.

The training institute is a reflection of two major trends in India; first, there is a major skills shortage in India's fast-growing organized retail industry, and second, India will soon have the youngest population in the world. Of the 1.2 billion people in India, 570 million are under the age of 25, accounting for just over 50 percent of the population. The country is expected to register the world's largest addition to the working-age population by 2010. Recent studies show that 57 percent of Indian youth — 2.5 percent from Punjab alone — lack access to the kind of training opportunities that can make them employable. Creating jobs, therefore, is one of the most important objectives for the government.

The Bharti Retail Training Center will help create a pool of retail talent in India for our own growing business, as we plan to open cash-and-carry stores by the end of 2009. But it will also equip young people with the skills they need to prosper in one of the fastest-growing industry segments in India — in stores of every kind.

In addition, it will help bring standardization to what is currently an extremely fragmented retail industry in India. Today, organized retail represents just 5 percent of the total market. As a result, the supply chain networks there are not fully developed and are largely inefficient. For example, close to 40 percent of the food and produce from India's farms is wasted because it expires before it can reach consumers.

For consumers, the impact of the current retail industry is many-fold. They have access to a limited product assortment with little transparency in price; products come to them with inconsistent quality at inconsistent intervals; there are little or no hygiene standards in some areas; and consumers pay a premium for access to products that many of us take for granted.

This is why, through our joint venture with Bharti Enterprises, we are investing in a more efficient supply chain management operation. The supply chain operation will support farmers and small manufacturers who have limited infrastructure and distribution capabilities and help them to minimize waste, particularly of fresh foods and vegetables. We believe this initiative can play an important role in transforming a number of India's farmers and small manufacturers into successful entrepreneurs.

We are also working to educate our suppliers and our neighbors in communities in the region — and to improve the standards of small businesses so that they can create greater value for consumers and the Indian retail market. We believe this is helping people save money so they can live better... in action.