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Impact of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) on Indian Economy

Impact of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) on Indian Economy

Anand,  BA., B.L

Definition

Foreign direct investment (FDI) or foreign investment refers to the net inflows of investment to acquire a lasting management interest (10 percent or more of voting stock) in an enterprise operating in an economy other than that of the investor. It is the sum of equity capital,other long-term capital, and short-term capital as shown in the balance of payments. It usually involves participation in management, joint-venture, transfer of technology and expertise. There are two types of FDI: inward foreign direct investment and outward foreign direct investment, resulting in a net FDI inflow (positive or negative) and “stock of foreign direct investment”, which is the cumulative number for a given period. Direct investment excludes investment through purchase of shares. FDI is one example of international factor movement.

Types

A foreign direct investor may be classified in any sector of the economy and could be any one of the following:

  • an individual;
  • a group of related individuals;
  • an incorporated or unincorporated entity;
  • a public company or private company;
  • a group of related enterprises;
  • a government body;
  • an estate (law), trust or other social institution; or
  • any combination of the above.

The foreign direct investor may acquire voting power of an enterprise in an economy through any of the following methods:

  • by incorporating a wholly owned subsidiary or company
  • by acquiring shares in an associated enterprise
  • through a merger or an acquisition of an unrelated enterprise
  • participating in an equity joint venture with another investor or enterprise…

Foreign direct investment incentives may take the following forms:

  • low corporate tax and income tax rates
  • tax holidays
  • other types of tax concessions
  • preferential tariffs
  • special economic zones
  • EPZ – Export Processing Zones
  • Bonded Warehouses
  • Maquiladoras
  • investment financial subsidies
  • soft loan or loan guarantees
  • free land or land subsidies
  • relocation & expatriation subsidies
  • job training & employment subsidies
  • infrastructure subsidies
  • R&D support
  • derogation from regulations (usually for very large projects)

Foreign Direct Investments in India

Starting from a baseline of less than $1 billion in 1990, a recent UNCTAD survey projected India as the second most important FDI destination (after China) for transnational corporations during 2010-2012. As per the data, the sectors which attracted higher inflows were services, telecommunication, construction activities and computer software and hardware. Mauritius, Singapore, the US and the UK were among the leading sources of FDI.

FDI in 2010 was $24.2 billion, a significant decrease from both 2008 and 2009.  Foreign direct investment in August 2010 dipped by about 60% to aprox. $34 billion, the lowest in 2010 fiscal, industry department data released showed.  In the first two months of 2010-11 fiscal, FDI inflow into India was at an all-time high of $7.78 billion up 77% from $4.4 billion during the corresponding period in the previous year.

The world’s largest retailer WalMart has termed India’s decision to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail as a “first important step” and said it will study the finer details of the new policy to determine the impact on its ability to do business in Indi

Impact on 51% FDI on India

The decision to hold back FDI in multi-brand retail will have a strong impact on the domestic and foreign investor sentiment, another chamber, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said in a release. “We firmly hope that this would not be a rollback and a quick consensus is reached,” CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said.

Describing the volte face as a case of “missed opportunity”, Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said, “It will send a very negative message to foreign investors.”

Rawat said FDI in multi-brand retail could have created over 10 million jobs in three years, curbed wastage of farm products and benefited farmers through better prices for their produce.

FICCI urged the government to move ahead with this progressive reform and proposed solutions like considering a maximum of 49 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and increasing the percentage of sourcing from the small scale sector, which was proposed to be fixed at a minimum 30 per cent.

The government was forced to put its decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail on hold in view of stiff opposition from UPA ally Trinamool Congress and other political parties.

Impact in Tamil Nadu

Chennai, Nov 27: Opposing the government policy of allowing 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail sector in India Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Sunday (today) said that she would not allow multi-brand global palyer to set up hyper markets in Tamil Nadu.

Jayalalithaa further said that government should reverse its “ill advised” move as it will monopolise the market, exploit farmers and consumers.

“I am constrained to state that my government will not allow the multi brand global players as permitted under the new policy to set up their hyper markets in Tamil Nadu,” Jayalalithaa declared.

The government new FDI retail policy to allow 51% foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail segment will permit world’s top retail giant like Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco to set up market in the country. Earlier, such retailers were not allowed to coduct retail business in India.

Current Indian Market Situation

Retailing in India is one of the pillars of its economy and accounts for about 15% of its GDP. The Indian retail market is estimated to be US$ 450 billion and one of the top five retail markets in the world by economic value.

Organised retailing, absent in most rural and small towns of India in 2010, refers to trading activities undertaken by licensed retailers, that is, those who are registered for sales tax, income tax, etc. These include the publicly-traded supermarkets, corporate-backed hypermarkets and retail chains, and also the privately owned large retail businesses. Unorganised retailing, on the other hand, refers to the traditional formats of low-cost retailing, for example, the local mom and pop store, owner manned general stores, paan/beedi shops, convenience stores, hand cart and pavement vendors, etc.

Supermarkets and similar organized retail accounted for just 4% of the market in 2008. Until recently, regulations prevented most of the foreign investment in retailing. Some retails faced complying with over thirty regulations such as “signboard licences” and “anti-hoarding measures” before they could open doors. There are taxes for moving goods to states, from states, and even within states in some cases. However, the Indian government has been opening the retail market and simplifying regulations. In November 2011, Indian central government announced major reforms paving way for giants such as Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco, as well single brand majors such as IKEA, Nike, and Apple to enter one of the fastest growing retail market of 1.2 billion people. This announcement immediately caused intense activism – both in opposition and in support – within India. On 7 December 2011, Indian government conceding to the opposition, announced it is suspending the retail reforms till it reaches a consensus.

Most Indian shopping takes place in open markets or millions of small, independent grocery and retail shops. Shoppers typically stand outside the retail shop, ask for what they want, and cannot pick or examine a product from the shelf. Access to the shelf or product storage area is limited. Once the shopper requests the food staple or household product they are looking for, the shopkeeper goes to the container or shelf or to the back of the store, brings it out and offers it for sale to the shopper. Often the shopkeeper may substitute the product, claiming that it is similar or equivalent to the product the consumer is asking for. The product typically has no price label in these small retail shops; although some products do have a manufactured suggested retail price (MSRP) pre-printed on the packaging. The shopkeeper prices the food staple and household products arbitrarily, and two consumers may pay different prices for the same product on the same day. Price is sometimes negotiated between the shopper and shopkeeper. The shoppers do not have time to examine the product label, and do not have a choice to make an informed decision between competitive products.

India’s retail and logistics industry, organized and unorganized in combination, employs about 40 million Indians (3.3% of Indian population). The typical Indian retail shops are very small. Over 14 million outlets operate in the country and only 4% of them being larger than 500 sq ft (46 m2) in size. India has about 11 shop outlets for every 1000 people. Vast majority of the unorganized retail shops in India employ family members, do not have the scale to procure or transport products at high volume wholesale level, have limited to no quality control or fake-versus-authentic product screening technology and have no training on safe and hygienic storage, packaging or logistics. The unorganized retail shops source their products from a chain of middlemen who mark up the product as it moves from farmer or producer to the consumer. The unorganized retail shops typically offer no after-sales support or service. Finally, most transactions at unorganized retail shops are done with cash, with all sales being final.

Between 2000 to 2010, consumers in select Indian cities have gradually begun to experience the quality, choice, convenience and benefits of organized retail industry.

Growth over 1997-2010

India in 1997 allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) in cash and carry wholesale. Then, it required government approval. The approval requirement was relaxed, and automatic permission was granted in 2006. Between 2000 to 2010, Indian retail attracted about $1.8 billion in foreign direct investment, representing a very small 1.5% of total investment flow into India.

Single brand retailing attracted 94 proposals between 2006 and 2010, of which 57 were approved and implemented. For a country of 1.2 billion people, this is a very small number. Some claim one of the primary restraint inhibiting better participation was that India required single brand retailers to limit their ownership in Indian outlets to 51%. China in contrast allows 100% ownership by foreign companies in both single brand and multi-brand retail presence.

Indian retail has experienced limited growth, and its spoilage of food harvest is amongst the highest in the world, because of very limited integrated cold-chain and other infrastructure. India has only 5386 stand-alone cold storages, having a total capacity of 23.6 million metric tons. However, 80 percent of this storage is used only for potatoes. The remaining infrastructure capacity is less than 1% of the annual farm output of India, and grossly inadequate during peak harvest seasons. This leads to about 30% losses in certain perishable agricultural output in India, on average, every year.

Indian laws already allow foreign direct investment in cold-chain infrastructure to the extent of 100 percent. There has been no interest in foreign direct investment in cold storage infrastructure build out. Experts claim that cold storage infrastructure will become economically viable only when there is strong and contractually-binding demand from organized retail. The risk of cold storing perishable food, without an assured way to move and sell it, puts the economic viability of expensive cold storage in doubt. In the absence of organized retail competition and with a ban on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retailers, foreign direct investments are unlikely to begin in cold storage and farm logistics infrastructure.

Until 2010, intermediaries and middlemen in India have dominated the value chain. Due to a number of intermediaries involved in the traditional Indian retail chain, norms are flouted and pricing lacks transparency. Small Indian farmers realize only 1/3rd of the total price paid by the final Indian consumer, as against 2/3rd by farmers in nations with a higher share of organized retail. The 60%+ margins for middlemen and traditional retail shops have limited growth and prevented innovation in Indian retail industry.

India has had years of debate and discussions on the risks and prudence of allowing innovation and competition within its retail industry. Numerous economists repeatedly recommended to the Government of India that legal restrictions on organized retail must be removed, and the retail industry in India must be opened to competition. For example, in an invited address to the Indian parliament in December 2010, Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Law at the Columbia University analysed the relationship between growth and poverty reduction, then urged the Indian parliament to extend economic reforms by freeing up of the retail sector, further liberalisation of trade in all sectors, and introducing labor market reforms. Such reforms Professor Bhagwati argued will accelerate economic growth and make a sustainable difference in the life of India’s poorest.

A 2007 report noted that an increasing number of people in India are turning to the services sector for employment due to the relative low compensation offered by the traditional agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The organized retail market is growing at 35 percent annually while growth of unorganized retail sector is pegged at 6 percent.

The Retail Business in India is currently at the point of inflection. As of 2008, rapid change with investments to the tune of US $ 25 billion were being planned by several Indian and multinational companies in the next 5 years. It is a huge industry in terms of size and according to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), it is valued at about US$ 395.96 billion. Organised retail is expected to garner about 16-18 percent of the total retail market (US $ 65-75 billion) in the next 5 years.

India has topped the A.T. Kearney’s annual Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) for the third consecutive year, maintaining its position as the most attractive market for retail investment. The Indian economy has registered a growth of 8% for 2007. The predictions for 2008 is 7.9%. The enormous growth of the retail industry has created a huge demand for real estate. Property developers are creating retail real estate at an aggressive pace and by 2010, 300 malls are estimated to be operational in the country.

Growth after 2011

Before 2011, India had prevented innovation and organized competition in its consumer retail industry. Several studies claim that the lack of infrastructure and competitive retail industry is a key cause of India’s persistently high inflation. Furthermore, because of unorganized retail, in a nation where malnutrition remains a serious problem, food waste is rife. Well over 30% of food staples and perishable goods produced in India spoils because poor infrastructure and small retail outlets prevent hygienic storage and movement of the goods from the farmer to the consumer.

One report estimates the 2011 Indian retail market as generating sales of about $470 billion a year, of which a miniscule $27 billion comes from organized retail such as supermarkets, chain stores with centralized operations and shops in malls. The opening of retail industry to free market competition, some claim will enable rapid growth in retail sector of Indian economy. Others believe the growth of Indian retail industry will take time, with organized retail possibly needing a decade to grow to a 25% share. A 25% market share, given the expected growth of Indian retail industry through 2021, is estimated to be over $250 billion a year: a revenue equal to the 2009 revenue share from Japan for the world’s 250 largest retailers.

The Economist forecasts that Indian retail will nearly double in economic value, expanding by about $400 billion by 2020. The projected increase alone is equivalent to the current retail market size of France.

In 2011, food accounted for 70% of indian retail, but was under-represented by organized retail. A.T. Kearney estimates India’s organized retail had a 31% share in clothing and apparel, while the home supplies retail was growing between 20% to 30% per year. These data correspond to retail prospects prior to November announcement of the retail reform.

Indian Retail Market

Indian market has high complexities in terms of a wide geographic spread and distinct consumer preferences varying by each region necessitating a need for localization even within the geographic zones. India has highest number of outlets per person (7 per thousand) Indian retail space per capita at 2 sq ft (0.19 m2)/ person is lowest in the world Indian retail density of 6 percent is highest in the world. 1.8 million households in India have an annual income of over 45 lakh (US$91,260).

Delving further into consumer buying habits, purchase decisions can be separated into two categories: status-oriented and indulgence-oriented. CTVs/LCDs, refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, microwave ovens and DVD players fall in the status category. Indulgence-oriented products include plasma TVs, state-of-the-art home theatre systems, iPods, high-end digital cameras, camcorders, and gaming consoles. Consumers in the status category buy because they need to maintain a position in their social group. Indulgence-oriented buying happens with those who want to enjoy life better with products that meet their requirements. When it comes to the festival shopping season, it is primarily the status-oriented segment that contributes largely to the retailer’s cash register.

While India presents a large market opportunity given the number and increasing purchasing power of consumers, there are significant challenges as well given that over 90% of trade is conducted through independent local stores. Challenges include: Geographically dispersed population, small ticket sizes, complex distribution network, little use of IT systems, limitations of mass media and existence of counterfeit goods.

Major Indian Retailers

Indian apparel retailers are increasing their brand presence overseas, particularly in developed markets. While most have identified a gap in countries in West Asia and Africa, some majors are also looking at the US and Europe. Arvind Brands, Madura Garments, Spykar Lifestyle and Royal Classic Polo are busy chalking out foreign expansion plans through the distribution route and standalone stores as well. Another denim wear brand, Spykar, which is now moving towards becoming a casualwear lifestyle brand, has launched its store in Melbourne recently. It plans to open three stores in London by 2008-end.

The low-intensity entry of the diversified Mahindra Group into retail is unique because it plans to focus on lifestyle products. The Mahindra Group is the fourth largest Indian business group to enter the business of retail after Reliance Industries Ltd, the Aditya Birla Group, and Bharti Enterprises Ltd. The other three groups are focusing either on perishables and groceries, or a range of products, or both.

  • REI AGRO LTD Retail: 6TEN and 6TEN kirana stores
  • Future Groups-Formats: Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, Pantaloons, Central, Fashion Station, Brand Factory, Depot, aLL, E-Zone etc.
  • Raymond Ltd.: Textiles, The Raymond Shop, Park Avenue, Park Avenue Woman, Parx, Colourplus, Neck Ties & More, Shirts & More etc.
  • Fabindia: Textiles, Home furnishings, handloom apparel, jewellery
  • RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group Retail-Formats: Spencer’s Hyper, Spencer’s Daily, Music World, Au Bon Pain (Internaional bakery cafeteria), Beverly Hills Polo Club
  • The Tata Group-Formats: Westside, Star India Bazaar, Steeljunction, Landmark, Titan Industries with World of Titans showrooms, Tanishq outlets, Croma.
  • Reliance Retail-Formats: Reliance MART, Reliance SUPER, Reliance FRESH, Reliance Footprint, Reliance Living, Reliance Digital, Reliance Jewellery, Reliance Trends, Reliance Autozone, iStore
  • Reliance ADAG Retail-Format: Reliance World
  • K Raheja Corp Group-Formats: Shoppers Stop, Crossword, Hyper City, Inorbit Mall
  • Nilgiri’s-Formats: Nilgiris’ supermarket chain
  • Marks & Spencer: Clothing, lifestyle products, etc.
  • Lifestyle International-Lifestyle, Home Centre, Max, Fun City and International Franchise brand stores.
  • Pyramid Retail-Formats: Pyramid Megastore, TruMart
  • Next retail India Ltd (Consumer Electronics
  • Vivek Limited Retail Formats: Viveks, Jainsons, Viveks Service Centre, Viveks Safe Deposit Lockers
  • PGC Retail -T-Mart India, Switcher , Respect India , Grand India Bazaar ,etc.,
  • Subhiksha-Formats: Subhiksha supermarket pharmacy and telecom discount chain.
  • Trinethra- Formats: Fabmall supermarket chain and Fabcity hypermarket chain
  • Vishal Retail Group-Formats: Vishal Mega Mart
  • BPCL-Formats: In & Out
  • German Metro Cash & Carry
  • Shoprite Holdings-Formats: Shoprite Hyper
  • Paritala stores bazar: honey shine stores
  • Aditya Birla Group – “More” Outlets
  • Kapas- Cotton garment outlets
  • Nmart Retails with 71 operating Stores till now and total 153 Stores in India and 1 to open in Dubai Shortly. (Expected to be 150 by the end of Aug-2012)(www.nmart.co.in)

Entry of MNC

The world’s largest retailer by sales, Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises have entered into a joint venture agreement and they are planning to open 10 to 15 cash-and-carry facilities over seven years. The first of the stores, which will sell groceries, consumer appliances and fruits and vegetables to retailers and small businesses, is slated to open in north India by the end of 2008.

Carrefour, the world’s second largest retailer by sales, is planning to setup two business entities in the country one for its cash-and-carry business and the other a master franchisee which will lend its banner, technical services and know how to an Indian company for direct-to-consumer retail.

The world’s fifth largest retailer by sales, Costco Wholesale Corp (Costco) known for its warehouse club model is also interested in coming to India and waiting for the right opportunity.

Opposition to the retailers’ plans have argued that livelihoods of small scale and rural vendors would be threatened. However, studies have found that only a limited number of small vendors will be affected and that the benefits of market expansion far outweigh the impact of the new stores.

Tesco Plc., plans to set up shop in India with a wholesale cash-and-carry business and will help Indian conglomerate Tata group to grow its hypermarket business

Challenges

A McKinsey study claims retail productivity in India is very low compared to international peer measures. For example, the labor productivity in Indian retail was just 6% of the labor productivity in United States in 2010. India’s labor productivity in food retailing is about 5% compared to Brazil’s 14%; while India’s labor productivity in non-food retailing is about 8% compared to Poland’s 25%.

Total retail employment in India, both organized and unorganized, account for about 6% of Indian labor work force currently – most of which is unorganized. This about a third of levels in United States and Europe; and about half of levels in other emerging economies. A complete expansion of retail sector to levels and productivity similar to other emerging economies and developed economies such as the United States would create over 50 million jobs in India. Training and development of labor and management for higher retail productivity is expected to be a challenge.

To become a truly flourishing industry, retailing in India needs to cross the following hurdles:

  • Automatic approval is not allowed for foreign investment in retail.
  • Regulations restricting real estate purchases, and cumbersome local laws.
  • Taxation, which favours small retail businesses.
  • Absence of developed supply chain and integrated IT management.
  • Lack of trained work force.
  • Low skill level for retailing management.
  • Lack of Retailing Courses and study options
  • Intrinsic complexity of retailing – rapid price changes, constant threat of product obsolescence and low margins.

In November 2011, the Indian government announced relaxation of some rules and the opening of retail market to competition.

Indian Retail Reform

Until 2011, Indian central government denied foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand Indian retail, forbidding foreign groups from any ownership in supermarkets, convenience stores or any retail outlets, to sell multiple products from different brands directly to Indian consumers.

The government of Manmohan Singh, prime minister, announced on 24 November 2011 the following:

  • India will allow foreign groups to own up to 51 per cent in “multi-brand retailers”, as supermarkets are known in India, in the most radical pro-liberalisation reform passed by an Indian cabinet in years;
  • single brand retailers, such as Apple and Ikea, can own 100 percent of their Indian stores, up from the previous cap of 51 percent;
  • both multi-brand and single brand stores in India will have to source nearly a third of their goods from small and medium-sized Indian suppliers;
  • all multi-brand and single brand stores in India must confine their operations to 53-odd cities with a population over one million, out of some 7935 towns and cities in India. It is expected that these stores will now have full access to over 200 million urban consumers in India;
  • multi-brand retailers must have a minimum investment of US$100 million with at least half of the amount invested in back end infrastructure, including cold chains, refrigeration, transportation, packing, sorting and processing to considerably reduce the post harvest losses and bring remunerative prices to farmers;
  • the opening of retail competition will be within India’s federal structure of government. In other words, the policy is an enabling legal framework for India. The states of India have the prerogative to accept it and implement it, or they can decide to not implement it if they so choose. Actual implementation of policy will be within the parameters of state laws and regulations.

The opening of retail industry to global competition is expected to spur a retail rush to India. It has the potential to transform not only the retailing landscape but also the nation’s ailing infrastructure.

A Wall Street Journal article claims that fresh investments in Indian organized retail will generate 10 million new jobs between 2012-2014, and about five to six million of them in logistics alone; even though the retail market is being opened to just 53 cities out of about 8000 towns and cities in India.

It is expected to help tame stubbornly high inflation but is likely to be vehemently opposed by millions of small retailers, who see large foreign chains as a threat. The need to control food price inflation — averaging double-digit rises over several years — prompted the government to open the sector, analysts claim. Hitherto India’s food supplies have been controlled by tens of millions of middlemen (less than 5% of Indian population). Traders add huge mark-ups to farm prices, while offering little by way of technical support to help farmers boost their productivity, packaging technology, pushing up retail prices significantly. Analysts said allowing in big foreign retailers would provide an impetus for them to set up modern supply chains, with refrigerated vans, cold storage and more efficient logistics. “I think foreign chains can also bring in humongous logistical benefits and capital,” Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general, Confederation of Indian Industry, told Reuters. “The biggest beneficiary would be the small farmers who will be able to improve their productivity by selling directly to large organised players,” Mr Banerjee said.

Indian retail reforms on hold

According to Bloomberg, on 3 December 2011, the Chief Minister of the Indian state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who is against the policy and whose Trinamool Congress brings 19 votes to the ruling Congress party-led coalition, claimed that India’s government may put the FDI retail reforms on hold until it reaches consensus within the ruling coalition. Reuters reports that this risked a possible dilution of the policy rather than a change of heart.

India Today claimed that the resistance to Indian retail reforms is primarily because it has been badly sold, even though it can help fix the exploitation of Indian farmers by the decades-old “arhtiya” and “mandi” monopoly system. India Today claims the policy is good for the small Indian farmer and the Indian consumer.

Pratap Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research, claimed any U-turn or postponement of retail reforms will cause an immense loss of face to the Congress-led central government of Manmohan Singh. The mom-and-pop farmers of India support these reforms. The consumers of India want the reforms. The government has already annoyed those who oppose change and innovation in retail. By putting retail reforms on hold, the government will additionally alienate much larger segment of India’s population supporting FDI. So they will now have the worst of both worlds, claims Mehta.

Deepak Parekh, Ashok Ganguly and other economic policy leaders of India, on 4 December 2011, called placing investment and innovation in retail on hold for the sake of vested interests as unfair and detrimental to vast majority in India. They urged farmers, consumers and the common people to raise their voice against this false drama of apprehension against investment and modernising trade in organised retailing. They called upon Indians to come out and strongly support progressive measures and reforms with the same spirit and gusto with which we take the liberties to criticize policies or issues we do not appreciate.

Several newspapers claimed on 6 December 2011 that India parliament is expected to shelve retail reforms while the ruling Congress party seeks consensus from the opposition and the Congress party’s own coalition partners. Suspension of retail reforms on 7 December 2011 would be, the reports claimed, an embarrassing defeat for the Indian government, suggesting it is weak and ineffective in implementing its ideas.

Anand Sharma, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister, after a meeting of all political parties on 7 December 2011 said, “The decision to allow foreign direct investment in retail is suspended till consensus is reached with all stakeholders.”

Social Impact and Controversy with Retail Reforms

The November 2011 retail reforms in India have sparked intense activism, both in opposition and in support of the reforms.

Controversy over Indian retail reforms

A horticultural produce retail market in Kolkata, India; produce loss in these retail formats is very high for perishables

Critics of the Indian retail reforms announcement are making one or more of the following points:

  • Independent stores will close, leading to massive job losses. Walmart employs very few people in the United States. If allowed to expand in India as much as Walmart has expanded in the United States, few thousand jobs may be created but millions will be lost.
  • Walmart will lower prices to dump goods, get competition out of the way, become a monopoly, then raise prices. We have seen this in the case of the soft drinks industry. Pepsi and Coke came in and wiped out all the domestic brands.
  • India doesn’t need foreign retailers, since homegrown companies and traditional markets may be able to do the job.
  • Work will be done by Indians, profits will go to foreigners.
  • Remember East India Company. It entered India as a trader and then took over politically.
  • There will be sterile homogeneity and Indian cities will look like cities anywhere else.
  • The government hasn’t built consensus.

Supporters claim none of these objections has merit. They claim:

  • Organized retail will need workers. Walmart employs 1.4 million people in United States alone. With United States population of about 300 million, and India’s population of about 1200 million, if Walmart-like retail companies were to expand in India as much as their presence in the United States, and the staffing level in Indian stores kept at the same level as in the United States stores, Walmart alone would employ 5.6 million Indian citizens. Walmart has a 6.5% market share of the total United States retail. Adjusted for this market share, the expected jobs in future Indian organized retail would total over 85 million. In addition, millions of additional jobs will be created during the building of and the maintenance of retail stores, roads, cold storage centers, software industry, electronic cash registers and other retail supporting organizations. Instead of job losses, retail reforms are likely to be massive boost to Indian job availability.
  • KPMG – one of the world’s largest audit companies – finds that in China, the employment in both retail and wholesale trade increased from 4% in 1992 to about 7% in 2001, post China opening its retail to foreign and domestic innovation and competition. In absolute terms, China experienced the creation of 26 million new jobs within 9 years, post China announcing FDI retail reforms. Additionally, contrary to some concerns in China, post retail reforms, the number of traditional small retailers also grew by 30% over 5 years.
  • India needs trillions of dollar to build its infrastructure, hospitals, housing and schools for its growing population. Indian economy is small, with limited surplus capital. Indian government is already operating on budget deficits. It is simply not possible for Indian investors or Indian government to fund this expansion, job creation and growth at the rate India needs. Global investment capital through FDI is necessary. Beyond capital, Indian retail industry needs knowledge and global integration. Global retail leaders, some of which are partly owned by people of Indian origin, can bring this knowledge. Global integration can potentially open export markets for Indian farmers and producers. Walmart, for example, expects to source and export some $1 billion worth of goods from India every year, since it came into Indian wholesale retail market.
  • Walmart, Carrefour, Tesco, Target, Metro, Coop are some of over 350 global retail companies with annual sales over $1 billion. These retail companies have operated for over 30 years in numerous countries. They have not become monopolies. Competition between Walmart-like retailers has kept food prices in check. Canada credits their very low inflation rates to Walmart-effect. Anti-trust laws and state regulations, such as those in Indian legal code, have prevented food monopolies from forming anywhere in the world. Price inflation in these countries has been 5 to 10 times lower than price inflation in India. The current consumer price inflation in Europe and the United States is less than 2%, compared to India’s double digit inflation.
  • The Pepsi and Coke example is meaningless in the context of Indian beverage market. More competition is lacking because of limited demand. Indian consumer has limited interest in soft drinks. Soft drinks represent less than 5% of Indian beverage market. Indian consumer prefers milk-based, tea and coffee and these account for 90% of Indian beverage market. In these markets, Coca Cola and Pepsi have plenty of competition. The next most important market in India is bottled water, that outsells combined soft drink sales of the Pepsi and Coca Cola. Bottled water, milk, coffee and tea market in India are big markets, and have plenty of domestic brands, European brands like Nestle, as well as Pepsi and Coca Cola. Organized retail too will have numerous brands and strong competition.
  • Comparing 21st century to 18th century is inappropriate. Conditions today are not same as in the 18th century. India wasn’t a democracy then, it is today. Global awareness and news media were not the same in 18th century as today. Consider China today. It has over 57 million square feet of retail space owned by foreigners, employing millions of Chinese citizens. Yet, China hasn’t become a vassal of imperialists. It enjoys respect from all global powers. Other Asian countries like Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia see foreign retailers as catalysts of new technology and price reduction; and they have benefitted immensely by welcoming FDI in retail. India too will benefit by integrating with the world, rather than isolating itself.
  • With 51% FDI limit in multi-brand retailers, nearly half of any profits will remain in India. Any profits will be subject to taxes, and such taxes will reduce Indian government budget deficit. Many years ago, China adopted the retail reform policy India has announced; China allowed FDI in its retail sector. It has taken FDI-financed retailers in China between 5 to 10 years to post profits, in large part because of huge investments they had to make initially. Like China, it is unlikely foreign retailers will earn any profits in India for the first 5 to 10 years. Ultimately, retail companies must earn profits with hard work and by creating value.
  • States have a right to say no to retail FDI within their jurisdiction. States have the right to add restrictions to the retail policy announced before they implement them. Thus, they can place limits on number, market share, style, diversity, homogeneity and other factors to suit their cultural preferences. Finally, in future, states can always introduce regulations and India can change the law to ensure the benefits of retail reforms reach the poorest and weakest segments of Indian society, free and fair retail competition does indeed lead to sharply lower inflation than current levels, small farmers get better prices, jobs created by organized retail pay well, and healthier food becomes available to more households.
  • Inbuilt inefficiencies and wastage in distribution and storage account for why, according to some estimates, as much as 40% of food production doesn’t reach consumers. Fifty million children in India are malnourished. Food often rots at farms, in transit, or in antiquated state-run warehouses. Cost-conscious organized retail companies will avoid waste and loss, making food available to the weakest and poorest segment of Indian society, while increasing the income of small farmers. Walmart, for example, since its arrival in Indian wholesale retail market, has successfully introduced “Direct Farm Project” at Haider Nagar near Malerkotla in Punjab, where 110 farmers have been connected with Bharti Walmart for sourcing fresh vegetables directly, thereby reducing waste and bringing fresher produce to Indian consumers.
  • Indian small shops employ workers without proper contracts, making them work long hours. Many unorganized small shops depend on child labour. A well-regulated retail sector will help curtail some of these abuses.
  • Organized retail has enabled a wide range of companies to start and flourish in other countries. For example, in the United States, an organized retailer named Whole Foods has rapidly grown to annual revenues of $9 billion by working closely with farmers, delighting customers and caring about the communities it has stores in.
  • The claims that there is no consensus are without merit. About 10 years ago, when opposition formed the central government, they had proposed retail reforms and suggested India consider FDI in retail. Retail reforms discussions are not new. More recently, retail reforms announced evolved after a process of intense consultations and consensus building initiative. In 2010, the Indian government circulated a discussion paper on FDI retail reforms. On July 6 2011, another version of the discussion paper was circulated by the central government of India. Comments from a wide cross-section of Indian society including farmers’ associations, industry bodies, consumer forums, academics, traders’ associations, investors, economists were analyzed in depth before the matter was discussed by the Committee of Secretaries. By early August 2011, the consensus from various segments of Indian society was overwhelming in favor of retail reforms. The reform outline was presented in India’s Rajya Sabha in August 2011. The announced reforms are the result of this consensus process. The current opposition is not helping the consensus process, since consensus is not built by threats and disruption. Those who oppose current retail reforms should help build consensus with ideas and proposals, if they have any. The opposition parties currently disrupting the Indian parliament on retail reforms have not offered even one idea or a single proposal on how India can eliminate food spoilage, reduce inflation, improve food security, feed the poor, improve the incomes of small farmers.

Opposition to retail reforms

Within a week of retail reform announcement, Indian government has faced a political backlash against its decision to allow competition and 51% ownership of multi-brand organized retail in India.

Despite the fact that Salman Khurshid, India’s law minister, claiming that many opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, had privately encouraged the government to push through the retail reform, the intense criticism now targets Congress-led coalition government, and its decision to push through one of the biggest economic reforms in years for India. Opposition parties claim supermarket chains are ill-advised, unilateral and unwelcome.

The opposition claims the entry of organized retailers would lead to their dominance that would decimate local retailers and force millions of people out of work.

Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal and the leader of the Trinamool Congress, announced her opposition to retail reform, claiming “Some people might support it, but I do not support it. You see America is America … and India is India. One has to see what one’s capacity is.”

Other states whose Chief Ministers have either personally announced opposition or announced reluctance to implement the retail reforms: Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

Chief Ministers of many states have not made a personal statement in opposition or support of India needing retail reforms. Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka and Rajasthan are examples of these states. Both sides have made conflicting claims about the position of chief ministers from these states.

A Wall Street Journal article reports that in Uttar Pradesh, Uma Bharti, a senior leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), threatened to “set fire to the first Wal-Mart store whenever it opens;” with her colleague Sushma Swaraj busy tweeting up a storm of misinformation about how Wal-Mart allegedly ruined the U.S. economy.

On 1 December 2011, an India-wide “bandh” (close all business in protest) was called by political parties opposing the retail reform. While many organizations responded, the reach of the protest was mixed. The Times of India, a national newspaper of India, claimed people appeared divided over the bandh call and internal rivalry among trade associations led to a mixed response, leaving many stores open day-long and others opening for business as usual in the second half of the day. Even Purti Group, a network of stores owned and operated by Nitin Gadkari were open for business, ignoring the call for bandh. Gadkari is the president of BJP, the key party currently organizing opposition to retail reform.

The Hindu, another widely circulated newspaper in India, claimed the opposition’s call for a nationwide shutdown on 1 December 2011, in protest of retail reform received a mixed response. Some states had strong support, while most did not. Even in states where opposition political parties are in power, many ignored the call for the shutdown. In Gujarat, Bihar, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Assam the call evoked a partial response. While a number of wholesale markets observed the shutdown, the newspaper claimed a majority of kirana stores and neighborhood small shops — for whom apparently the trade bandh had been called — remained open, ignoring the shutdown call. Conflicting claims were made by the organizers of the nationwide shutdown. Contrary to eyewitness reports, one Trader union’s secretary general claimed traders across the country participated wholeheartedly in the strike.

The political parties opposing the retail reforms physically disrupted and forced India’s parliament to adjourn again on Friday 2 December 2011. The Indian government refused to cave in, in its attempt to convince through dialogue that retail reforms are necessary to protect the farmers and consumers. Indian parliament has been dysfunctional for the entire week of November 28 2011 over the opposition to retail reforms.

Support for retail reforms

In a pan-Indian survey conducted over the weekend of 3 December 2011, overwhelming majority of consumers and farmers in and around ten major cities across the country support the retail reforms. Over 90 per cent of consumers said FDI in retail will bring down prices and offer a wider choice of goods. Nearly 78 per cent of farmers said they will get better prices for their produce from multi-format stores. Over 75 per cent of the traders claimed their marketing resources will continue to be needed to push sales through multiple channels, but they may have to accept lower margins for greater volumes.

Farmer groups

Various farmer associations in India have announced their support for the retail reforms. For example:

  • Shriram Gadhve of All India Vegetable Growers Association (AIVGA) claims his organization supports retail reform. He claimed that currently, it is the middlemen commission agents who benefit at the cost of farmers. He urged that the retail reform must focus on rural areas and that farmers receive benefits. Gadhve claimed, “A better cold storage would help since this could help prevent the existing loss of 34% of fruits and vegetables due to inefficient systems in place.” AIVGA operates in nine states including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Punjab and Haryana with 2,200 farmer outfits as its members.
  • Bharat Krishak Samaj, a farmer association with more than 75,000 members says it supports retail reform. Ajay Vir Jakhar, the chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, claimed a monopoly exists between the private guilds of middlemen, commission agents at the sabzi mandis (India’s wholesale markets for vegetables and farm produce) and the small shopkeepers in the unorganized retail market. Given the perishable nature of food like fruit and vegetables, without the option of safe and reliable cold storage, the farmer is compelled to sell his crop at whatever price he can get. He cannot wait for a better price and is thus exploited by the current monopoly of middlemen. Jakhar asked that the government make it mandatory for organized retailers to buy 75% of their produce directly from farmers, bypassing the middlemen monopoly and India’s sabzi mandi auction system.
  • Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations (CIFA) announced its support for retail reform. Chengal Reddy, secretary general of CIFA claimed retail reform could do lots for Indian farmers. Reddy commented, “India has 600 million farmers, 1,200 million consumers and 5 million traders. I fail to understand why political parties are taking an anti-farmer stand and worried about half a million brokers and small shopkeepers.” CIFA mainly operates in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu; but has a growing members from rest of India, including Shetkari Sanghatana in Maharashtra, Rajasthan Kisan Union and Himachal Farmer Organisations.
  • Prakash Thakur, the chairman of the People for Environment Horticulture & Livelihood of Himachal Pradesh, announcing his support for retail reforms claimed FDI is expected to roll out produce storage centers that will increase market access, reduce the number of middlemen and enhance returns to farmers. Highly perishable fruits like cherry, apricot, peaches and plums have a huge demand but are unable to tap the market fully because of lack of cold storage and transport infrastructure. Sales will boost with the opening up of retail. Even though India is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, its storage infrastructure is grossly inadequate, claimed Thakur.
  • Sharad Joshi, founder of Shetkari Sangathana (farmers association), has announced his support for retail reforms. Joshi claims FDI will help the farm sector improve critical infrastructure and integrate farmer-consumer relationship. Today, the existing retail has not been able to supply fresh vegetables to the consumers because they have not invested in the backward integration. When the farmers’ produce reaches the end consumer directly, the farmers will naturally be benefited. Joshi feels retail reform is just a first step of needed agricultural reforms in India, and that the government should pursue additional reforms.

Suryamurthy, in an article in The Telegraph, claims farmer groups across India do not support status quo and seek retail reforms, because with the current retail system the farmer is being exploited. For example, the article claims:

  • Indian farmers get only one third of the price consumers pay for food staples, the rest is taken as commissions and markups by middlemen and shopkeepers
  • For perishable horticulture produce, average price farmers receive is barely 12 to 15% of the final price consumer pays
  • Indian potato farmers sell their crop for Rs. 2 to 3 a kilogram, while the Indian consumer buys the same potato for Rs. 12 to 20 a kilogram.

Economists and entrepreneurs

Many business groups in India are welcoming the transformation of a long-protected sector that has left Indian shoppers bereft of the scale and variety of their counterparts in more developed markets.

B. Muthuraman, the president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, claimed the retail reform would open enormous opportunities and lead to much-needed investment in cold chain, warehousing and contract farming.

Organized retailers will reduce waste by improving logistics, creating cold storage to prevent food spoilage, improve hygiene and product safety, reduce counterfeit trade and tax evasion on expensive item purchases, and create dependable supply chains for secure supply of food staples, fruits and vegetables. They will increase choice and reduce India’s rampant inflation by reducing waste, spoilage and cutting out middlemen. Fresh investment in organized retail, the supporters of retail reform claim will generate 10 million new jobs by 2014, about five to six million of them in logistics alone.

Organized retail will offer the small Indian farmer more competing venues to sell his or her products, and increase income from less spoilage and waste. A Food and Agricultural Organization report claims that currently, in India, the small farmer faces significant losses post-harvest at the farm and because of poor roads, inadequate storage technologies, inefficient supply chains and farmer’s inability to bring the produce into retail markets dominated by small shopkeepers. These experts claim India’s post-harvest losses to exceed 25%, on average, every year for each farmer.

Unlike the current monopoly of middlemen buyer, retail reforms offer farmers access to more buyers from organized retail. More buyers will compete for farmers produce leading to better support for farmers and to better bids. With less spoilage of staples and agricultural produce, global retail companies can find and provide additional markets to Indian farmers. Walmart, since its arrival in India’s wholesale retail market, already sources and exports about $1 billion worth of Indian goods for its global customers.

Not only do these losses reduce food security in India, the study claims that poor farmers and others loose income because of the waste and inefficient retail. Over US$50 billion of additional income can become available to Indian farmers by preventing post-harvest farm losses, improving transport, proper storage and retail. Organized retail is also expected to initiate infrastructure development creating millions of rural and urban jobs for India’s growing population. One study claims that if these post-harvest food staple losses could be eliminated with better infrastructure and retail network in India, enough food would be saved every year to feed 70 to 100 million people over the year.

Supporters of retail reform, The Economist claims, say it will increase competition and quality while reducing prices helping to reduce India’s rampant inflation that is close to the double digits. These supporters claim that unorganized small shopkeepers will continue to exist alongside large organized supermarkets, because for many Indians they will remain the most accessible and most convenient place to shop.

Chief Ministers of Indian states

Supporters of retail reform who have voiced the need to promote organized retail include Chief Ministers of several states of India, several belonging to political parties that have no affiliation with Congress-led central government of India. The list includes the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. In a report submitted earlier in 2011, these Chief Ministers urged the Prime Minister to prioritize reforms to help promote organized retail, shorten the retail path from farm to consumer, allow organized retail to buy direct from farmers at remunerative produce prices, and reduce farm to retail costs. Similarly, the Chief Minister of Delhi has come out in support of the retail reform, as have the Chief Ministers of the two farming states of Haryana and Punjab in north India. The Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab claim that the announced retail reforms will immensely benefit farmers in their states.

The Chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra – the state with the highest GDP in India and home to its financial capital Mumbai – has also welcomed the retail reform.

Tarun Gogoi, the Chief Minister of Assam, an eastern state in India, announcing his support to the retail reform, claimed “this will go a long way in bringing about a sea change in rural economy. The decision will boost agriculture and allied sectors, manufacturing, logistics, integrated cold chains, refrigerated transportation and food processing facilities in a big way.” Criticising the BJP-organized opposition, Gogoi claimed that these parties who had just a few years ago dubbed opening up retail as good for India, are now singing a different tune.

Current supermarkets

Existing Indian retail firms such as Spencer’s, Foodworld Supermarkets Ltd, Nilgiri’s and ShopRite support retail reform and consider international competition as a blessing in disguise. They expect a flurry of joint ventures with global majors for expansion capital and opportunity to gain expertise in supply chain management. Spencer’s Retail with 200 stores in India, and with retail of fresh vegetables and fruits accounting for 55 per cent of its business claims retail reform to be a win-win situation, as they already procure the farm products directly from the growers without the involvement of middlemen or traders. Spencer’s claims that there is scope for it to expand its footprint in terms of store location as well as procuring farm products. Foodworld, which operates over 60 stores, plans to ramp up its presence to more than 200 locations. It has already tied up with Hong Kong-based Dairy Farm International. With the relaxation in international investments in Indian retail, India’s Foodworld expects its global relationship will only get stronger. Competition and investment in retail will provide more benefits to consumers through lower prices, wider availability and significant improvement in supply chain logistics

Dream Dare Win

www.jeywinl.com

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