With the head office taking care of procurement, racks will be full in a few days, say officials.

Before the Indian retail biggies set shop in the city, the Triveni stores gave the residents here their first supermarket experience. The shift from going to a neighbourhood shop and taking home whatever the shopkeeper gave, to walking around a cosy shop with a basket and selecting the item of your choice and low prices gave Triveni a dedicated clientele quickly.

Even when the big retailers arrived, promising a far richer shopping experience, Triveni supermarkets held their own, improving performance year after year. It would seem perplexing to see this chain of supermarkets that was making huge profits till a year ago drive away its regular customers without replenishing its stocks.

Subsidised goods

One of the answers lies in the non-availability of subsidised goods that have been one of the main attractions of the chain.

For instance, during the festival season, one kg of rice that costs around Rs.35 could be bought from these stores for as low as Rs.14. Even at other times, the prices are comparatively low compared to those in the open market. But it became difficult to get going when the subsidy amount failed to reach Consumerfed, which runs Triveni stores.

“The Triveni stores sell the products as per subsidised rates. But, the government never pays it on time,” said an employee.

According to sources, the outstanding subsidy amount accumulated over the past few years stands at more than Rs.400 crore. When The Hindu contacted Minister for Cooperation C.N. Balakrishnan, his office said that a part of the amount had been sanctioned.

“Around Rs.25 crore has been sanctioned and will be released soon to the Consumerfed,” said an official.

According to him, the lack of stock in the shops for the past few months can be attributed to a switchover from the existing system of procurement of goods. “Earlier, the regional offices used to handle the purchases. But, now they are not able to get the goods owing to the huge amounts of money that Consumerfed owes the suppliers. The head office will now take care of the procurement and the racks are expected to be filled in a few days,” said the official.

At least some of the employees are of the opinion that the continued negligence in running the stores is a way of helping the big retailers.

“Even they are offering competitive prices and all our customers are flocking to these shops. When they come in here, they want to go back with all that they wanted to buy. Since we cannot give even half of their required items, they end up not buying anything,” an employee said.