Monday, November 27, 2006

Malls Threaten To Edge Out Small Retail Outlets

Swanky malls with their eye-catching interiors, cool comfort and convenience of shopping, huge spaces to move around freely and car parking as well as refreshment facilities are drawing huge crowds in India. However, the public accustomed to a entirely different style of shopping and small retail outlets known as 'kiryana stores' stand no comparison to the land, labour and investment made in malls. There are reportedly 12 million such small retail outlets for a population of 1.07 billion and buyers numbering 405 millions in India. The rich number 6 million having a purchasing power of $28 billion and the total purchasing power is estimated to be $230 billion. This gives India a dubious distinction of being known as 'nation of shopkeepers'.
Be that as it may, the retail is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. The world's biggies are waiting to spread their wings in India introducing their modern and western management style along with a lot of dazzle. The supremo Wal-mart - a 260 billion retailer has just inked a JV with India's leading Bharti group. The reason for their enthusiasm to have presence in India is understandable as India's GDP will cross a staggering $740 billion by end of this year and is already world's 4th largest economy likely to become the third largest after USA and China by 2010.
So the media hype and the palpable soaring interest among the rich, the urban population particularly the youths who are vulnerable to ape western lifestyles with plenty of cash at their disposal are becoming somewhat disgusting. I am not quite enamoured at the idea of such malls barging into our lives. That is because, I know, it would herald the death of thousands and thousands of small retail outlets. Those are mostly family-oriented business joints which employ least capital, land and labour. They are small in size but their services extend far beyond mere shopping. From giving credits to customers and personalised attention, these outlets serve as a place for social mixing. The shopkeepers know their customers and their families by name and at times discuss personal problems confronting them. Among their other services, home delivery is quite fascinating. In Western countries where the culture is different and almost every person possesses cars - malls are very convenient places for shopping. But why we have to go malls located far away for our daily needs when we can get them round the corner. Let us not forget that shopping is a part of our daily life unlike in the West where it is done weekly or fortnightly. Bargaining is a part of shopping experience in these market places. Moreover, when millions of job-seekers are looking for jobs, why should the millions already working in small retail outlets loose their jobs only for malls to flourish which will require much less hands because of mechanisation and automation. Malls may be very cozy place but you loose your identity and power there.
So all that glitters is not always gold. I cannot think of a life without those small retail outlets - Wal-marts or no Wal-marts!


Anonymous said...

if malls are such a bad thing, how come there are more and more of them around the world?

All of the arguments you have presented in support for kirana stores, many countries have already been through them. (popular e.g. movie: you got mail). We know what the result has been so far. What is your contribution to this discussion? Do you have any new insights?

cut the sentimental drama. give some solid arguments.

Satish said...

I am happy to find that my views which were hardly sentimental are in line with what the respected The New York Times had said as per a report in The Times of India.
"In Korea, the local populace is seen not to have taken kindly to Wal-Mart's everything-under-one-roof concept. An analysis in The New York times recently noted that the concept may have suited the American shopping habit of going to a Wal-Mart once a week and filling up their car with week-long supplies, but did not suit the Koreans' preference for daily outings to a variety of local stores that specialise in groceries, drugs or household goods."
Further, The Economic Times has commented on the entry of Wal-Mart to India.
"It is the Gozdilla of retailing, but Wal-Mart's track-record in international markets has been a mixed bag. Its model has not quite clicked in all the 14 countries where the retailer is today present. In fact, earlier this year, the world's largest retailer had to face the ignominy of withdrawing from two key markets: South Korea and Germany."
So, what is sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gender.