They put up black flags at Thiagi Kumaran Market to show their opposition

Traders affiliated to the Kovai Mavatta Vyaparigal Sangam (Coimbatore District Traders’ Association) on Tuesday began a week-long protest against foreign direct investment in retail. R.S. Ganesan, the association president, said that their members put up 500 black flags at Thiagi Kumaran Market in the city to convey their opposition to the Central Government.

There were around 2,000 shops in the Market and all the traders were against FDI in retail.

Mr. Ganesan said that the Government’s decision would throw them out of business as it was an uneven competition.

“Traders who have invested a few lakh rupees will have to fight it out with giants who invest crores in the business.”

The traders had already started feeling the heat of the competition, with the entry of a few Indian retail giants. By selling good, especially perishable items, even at the cost of incurring a loss, retail giants would attract customers until traders like them lost the competition. Then they would fix prices that would bring them profit.

Mr. Ganesan said that the small-time traders supplied fresh vegetables and fruits but the multinational and national giants would cold storage the same. This helps them tweak prices to their convenience.

The traders wanted to the Government to rescind the notification and altogether give up the move to bring in FDI in retail.

If the Government failed to listen to the voices of the people and traders, the latter would be left with little choice but to intensify their protests.

Depending on the Government’s move, next week the traders planned to burn copies of the notification, he added.

Tirupur Staff Reporter adds

Retail hosiery manufacturers in Tirupur cluster view the move to allow FDI in retail as a threat to their market prowess.

“Allowing FDI in multi-brand retail will help big retail groups to set up stores in the country and sell foreign products at cheaper rates which, in turn, will affect the sale of apparels/other produces manufactured by Indian entrepreneurs, especially for our domestic market,” South India Hosiery Manufacturers’ Association president A.C. Eswaran pointed out.

Welcome move

However, activists like K.C.M. Balasubramaniam, president of Tirupur Consumer Voice, feel that the fear of foreigners was unwarranted. “We should not forget that products from clusters like Tirupur are sold in foreign markets and Indian corporate groups like Tata has set up their businesses abroad,” he said.

N. Shanmugasundaram, president of Nallur Consumer Welfare Association, too was of the opinion that the individual consumers would be immensely benefited by big retail stores, whether set up by a foreigner or an Indian, as they could get commodities at reduced prices.

Consumer activists feel that the clauses formulated by the Centre for allowing FDI in multi-brand retail like the minimum investment stipulation of $100 million with at least half the amount to be invested in backend infrastructure like cold storages and packing and 30 per cent procurement from Indian SMEs, were good as it allows only genuine players to foray into the arena.

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