Friday, May 12, 2006

Hamara Walmart

Today I was in Wal-Mart for paperclips. There were paperclips of every size, shape, brand, color, sex, religion and political affiliation. The variety overwhelmed me. For a brief moment my mind went back to my favorite stationary store in Trivandrum, Premier, where I use to visit religiously at least once every month. Although it was a closet sized ‘super store’, with fetid fragrance of a shop full of sweaty armpits, I felt special going to a store where the sales clerk recognized me and knew exactly what I wanted. With rumors afloat about Wal-Mart’s plan to setup shops in India, I wonder if shops like Premier would be a thing of the past.

It would be interesting to see how Wal-Mart’s entry into India will change our retail dynamics. There is already a brewing anti Wal-Mart campaign with flame throwers like Medha Patkar and Arunthathy Roy expected to join the band wagon soon. With scathing attack and overwhelmingly negative portrayal, media is also clearly not benevolent in its attitude toward the retail giant.

But, I am optimistic. Twenty years ago Hindusthan motors tricked Indians to believe that anything with four tires and a steering wheel is a car. Our state banks treated us like pesky little rodents. A new telephone connection required passing an IIT entrance examination, a rigorous SSB interview, thorough medical checkup, and the kindness and kinship of at least a peon at the department of telephones. This picture changed after India opened its market to foreign investors. Perhaps, Wal-Mart’s entry will set off a revolution in our retail sector as well.

Wal-Mart sells cheap, quotidian products in mind-boggling quantities, which evidently huge number of people are eager to buy. They sell everything; from cheap socks to designer Victoria secrets, from plastic buckets to Enfield rifles, Apple iPods to Microsoft Windows. This is very promising for Indian consumers; a market place with variety and quality. Wal-Mart also generates employment. (It employs 1.3 million people, more than 1% of American work force.) Most importantly, they will expose us to a new retail culture. This will inspire big boys in India, like Reliance, Tata and Communist Party of India, to start their own supermarket chains.

Propaganda that Wal-Mart threatens small shops is factious. Unlike in America, where Wal-Mart is common man’s super store, in India this will be the ‘Bloomingdales’ for the Santro driving upper middle class crowd, just like KFC, Mc Donnalds and Pizza hut. Regular jantha will still prefer local mom and pop shops.

So I am optimistic. When I do buy a Santro, I can go to my ‘local Wal-Mart’ to show off to my KSTRC riding neighbor. When my Santro breaks down, I can still go to my good old Premier and Potti annan will still recognize me and enquire if I want a Reynolds pen or an artist water color tube.


Anonymous CJ said...

Till your post i never knew paperclips had sex. Thanks for letting us know! :)

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Satish Bhargava said...

I dont think Indian politicians will allow Walmart to come to India. I liked your article. It was funny and interesting.


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Blogger Anoop said...

I will buy 2 acres of land in Konni, cultibate tometos and brinjols. I will have kokonut trees also. I will sell the begetables and the kokonuts to my local Reliance grocery store.

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