Multi Brand Retail – Yeh AAPne Kya Kiya

Arvind Kejriwal is probably the only leader who since Independence has made such a powerful impact in such a short time. He has always come out as one with strong conviction , courage, logic and tenacity. He has overnight become an ideal for many and the last hope to change the political mess in the country. I contributed generously to his party and when he won I felt I had won. But sadly this confidence has been shaken in the last 1 week.

Arvind-Kejriwal

Its not shaken because he has not solved all the problems of Delhi in 15 days. He has made a great start and opened up multiple fronts. He and his core team probably work 20 hrs a day . What parties have not solved in 60 + years – lets give him a few months to solve. Yes the inexperience shows , the hunger for speed , the frustration at bureaucracy – but then here is a party where almost all the MLA’s are 1st time MLA’s.

Its not shaken because Captain Gopinath and Binny send a few slurs. As far as Captain is concerned he probably wanted to get some visibility and mileage. Who is Gopinath to comment on AAP – Someone who started a 3rd rate airline which probably had the record for the worst service and a cargo company that never really took off . If he feels that he needs to be heard and be given centre stage in AAP decision making – thats his ego talking. And its not very difficult to fathom the reason  why Binny went ballistic. If AAP has won an election in 1 year – they have brains and they will figure out the best solution without advice from Gopinath and his kind.

While you , me and the common man want AAP to succeed – a lot of people are worried as their future generations may not enjoy the comfortable lives they led. If corruption is tackled , power centres are abolished , Jugad culture is eliminated then there is fear for the 1% that controls the country. So when we read a lot of blogs and articles that talks against AAP – I guess we should take it with a pinch of salt.

But what worries me a lot is the decision on Multi Brand Retail. Lets analyse this a little deeper.

The argument against Multi Brand Retail is that it will eliminate mom and pop stores. Unemployment will increase. Millions will be jobless , homeless. Lets look at some examples in India.

Remember Nirula’s & Pizza Corner. The 1st set of fast food restaurants in India.  They started well but could never scale. Quality dropped , rates increased. We now have McDonald, Pizza Hut , KFC , Domino’s….. and many more fast food brands. Has it eliminated jobs or created jobs. Have the Dhaba’s  and Darshini’s shut down because of the MNC food brands – they haven’t. Saravana Bhawan and McDonald both survive well next to each other at Janpath. The standing joints and Udupi restaurants continue to flourish. the market has grown – there is space for everyone. Yes Nirula’s and Pizza Corner are almost bust – but they were not able to compete.

Nirula's Just after Pthankot, No breakfast before 8 AM

In the 80’s India had only 2 car Brands – Ambassador and Premier Padmini. We should have never allowed Suzuki, Ford , Honda , Toyota to come to the country. Our Premier Padmini broke down almost once every month – in the last 10 years I am yet to see anyone pushing a car in the roads of Bangalore or Mumbai or Delhi. We now have variety , better quality . It also resulted in more factories , more jobs , a vibrant components industry , foreign exchange from exports – all positives. Are we better off by opening our automobile industry or worse ? We all know the answer to that. The only people who would have opposed this would be the Bombay Club. If you have no competition you can sell substandard products at high price ( remember the Chetak scooters being sold in Black market)

ambassador-of-calcutta-2-2598

What if we had not allowed FDI in telecom. BSNL & MTNL had a 10 year waiting period. You needed to know an MLA to get a Tatkal connection. The C Dot exchanges almost always crashed. All that changed when Telecom was liberalised. If not for the Ericsson , Nokia , Alcatel equipment and investments from Singtel , Hutch , Vodafone … the Indian telecom industry would have never taken off. Has this created more jobs and  given a boost to our economy or were we better off with BSNL & MTNL ?

I could go on and on. Mult Brand Retail will do the same thing. It will improve quality and create jobs. Its not going to replace the Mom & Pop Shop. The neighbourhood store 100 feet from your house will always be there for your bread , butter , eggs and last minute emergencies. But yes it will threaten the Nilgiris. Spencer’s , Foodworlds , Reliance Retail, Big Bazar – the so called Indian chains. Walk into any of the stores and see how the experience has collapsed in the last few years. The AC doesnt work , the strolley is broken , the teller  is a overworked , underpaid person. Lifestyle , Shoppers Stop and a few more brands may survive – but the vast majority will not.

Not only do they create jobs – but they will ease traffic congestion & pollution. These shops will come in the city outskirts. There is no space in the middle of our cities for these massive stores. They will have ample car parking, the rates will be lower ( we already see that in the Metros & other B2B stores) , the AC will work – the overall experience will be superior. We complained when the Bangalore airport moved 50 km away – today we are fine with it. Our Habits will change – we will drive out once every fortnight to these stores and stock up. Only those with large refrigerators can stock up. The city will expand , there will be more development in the fringes of the city.

Bangalore - Commercial Street

 

The metro rains will get you there. the CBD rates will fall , there will be lesser traffic , and no cars parked bumper to bumper on a  narrow 100 feet road that doubles up as a high street. Look at I Nagar 100 feet road – in the 80’s it was a beautiful tree lined street where you could take a peaceful walk. At 8.30 Pm you were scared to walk alone. Today it a mess – a lovely locality has become  one of the busiest commercial zones in the city. Do we want that or would it have been better to have a TESCO and Home Depot at C.V Raman Nagar ?

So coming back to the point – Arvind and his team are smart and intelligent. A large majority of their supporters are people like me . Urban, educated upper middle class. This class is puzzled with the AAP decision to go back on the Multi Brand Decision. Why did they do this ? Are they losing their logical thinking and falling into a populist trap ? Are they making decision that sound Pro Poor and Anti Rich ? In the process are they actually putting us back or taking us forward ? Are they really the idealogical simpletons with passion to change the country or are they a shrewder lot ? Is there some truth in the Blogs that talk about funding from Ford Foundation and how the US is using AAP to block Modi ? Great start – but the worry I have is ” Yeh Topiwala Topi to nahi pehnayega” – because if they do that a lot of people will be very very disappointed.

Time will tell – but for the moment , I am a trite disappointed.

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