Why shopkeepers and small traders are nervous | business | Hindustan Times
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Why shopkeepers and small traders are nervous

Rajendra Kumar, 42, finally closed his provision store in the bustling Ajmal Khan area of Delhi two years ago. Kumar said a Big Bazaar store offering goods at sharply lower prices at a shopping mall in West Delhi’s Rajouri Garden reduced shoppers at his 100 square feet store to a trickle in a matter of months, reports Vivek Sinha.

business Updated: Jul 26, 2010 23:40 IST
Vivek Sinha

Finally, Rajendra Kumar, 42, closed his provision store in the bustling Ajmal Khan area of Delhi two years ago.

Kumar said a Big Bazaar store offering goods at sharply lower prices at a shopping mall in West Delhi’s Rajouri Garden reduced shoppers at his 100 square feet store to a trickle in a matter of months.

“Metro Rail increased accessibility to the mall and Big Bazaar offered an air-conditioned ambience along with discounts,” Kumar, who now sells clothes off a hand cart, told Hindustan Times. “A small shopkeeper like me cannot match them.”

As a result, the government might have to renegotiate through a groundswell of opposition from small traders, intermediaries and shopkeepers before opening up the gates for foreign retail giants.

Domestic traders fear that giant stores by multinationals would put the livelihood of neighbourhood mom-and-pop kirana stores and street vendors at risk.

In a discussion paper released earlier this month, the government has made a strong case for opening up FDI in retail.

Small traders have thrashed the proposals. “It may not happen in one go but surely we all will feel an impact,” said S. Murli Mani, chairman of Confederation of All India Traders.

Some agriculturists fear big retailers procuring directly at the farm gate may not always translate into higher income.

“We could be forced to sell at pre-determined price to the corporate retailers who might form a cartel,” said Satnam Singh, a farmer who sells his produce in the Amritsar mandi.

Noted agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan favoured minimum support price system to ensure a steady income for farmers.

“My fear is that initially the retail giants may provide high rates to farmers to woo them away from the existing mandis,” Swaminathan said. “However, when the present systems break off, they could pay less.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties have voiced their opposition in no uncertain terms. “We will do everything to protect the interests of small traders,” BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad told HT.

Tomorrow: Why retail giants are waiting for foreign funds