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Driven up the wall by Walmart?

October 20, 2012

I love Mall shopping like everyone does, but hate the idea of shopping malls in India frankly.   Malaysia was the first country i visited and believe me or not, until 1998, i had never stepped into big glitzy shopping malls like they have in foreign countries.  For the simple reasons they did not exist in India 🙂

First time i walked into Carreffours in KL city and into those like IOI mall, it was an altogether different experience.  Never in my life had i seen so much of food stuff, electronics, clothes, consumer durables etc piled up in rows after rows in such a neat fashion in unending alleys.   Believe me , in those few first initial months i conjured up a worst possible economic scenario for India, the India i was born and brought up in….  i thought this is what you mean by ‘wealth!’

But then it did not take me more than 5-6 months thankfully, to grow out of this ‘mall phase.’  I started noticing small small things like how Chinese goods flooded these malls,how virtually the local industry stuff was absent,  how the fake Thai items were stacked in heaps … and how the local small shops or retailers were dying a slow and miserable death in every corner of Malaysia…  and the same story was repeated in Singapore.    Even the tomatoes and onions were from China or India,  and almost all the dairy products were from New Zealand or Denmark or Switzerland.  Chocolates again were swiss, the electronics were from Japan mostly.    Nothing was original about the malls  – so that’s what made me sit up and notice the sly side of mall culture.   It was the time the south east Asian countries were facing their worst economic crises in more than 2 decades and it finally dawned on me, what brought them to this condition…  (The Asian lions were down, and until now have not managed to look up…  all the time, they are opening more and more big and bigger malls closing down more shops and establishments in the process…. )  Through all this, i was looking for that one single elusive Malaysian ‘desi’ product that could match the hoard of the country’s import – and alas I wound up with finding ‘Pensonic’ the worst duplicate electronic product in the entire world!  No offence to Malaysia, but i found this very disconcerting.   The malls lacked their lustre for me now; i found somehow the entire society, everything fake.   Or i can say, i thought the country and its people lacked character.   I don’t wanna sound scathing about Malaysia, but somehow not finding original stuff anywhere in the country made me think that way…. somehow i seemed to associate the mall culture with this sad state of affairs, right or wrong….  Highways, malls, pubs, everything somehow seemed fake to me now…

It did then finally strike me how petty retailers, small shop-keepers flourished in every nook and corner of India, how small trade is actually the biggest blessing in Indian economy.   We still had a grass-roots level economy.  I understood why India is so resilient (inspite of the ‘slumdog’ image that the west so successfully created which is also sadly partly true in a vast section of our society) … why we are thriving and not falling apart like everyone does around us in these tough and critical economic times …  The basics were good, the foundations are strong and most important we were almost totally independent and self-reliant except for the huge bulk purchase of oil.   Indian industry was and is self-sustaining by nature;  we hardly needed external demand; local industry was thriving because they had a good local market to cater to, in the first place.

Out of 1 billion, despite over 30% living under poverty line, there still also existed a booming, literate, urban middle-class of 500 million who are always upward mobile.   So this is what drives up our economy.   And this middle-class created the endless demands for which local industrial production was apt and fit for consumption.

Very soon i grew out of fascination for foreign brands be it in handbags or whatever.   Indian leather was rough, but was local and sturdy.   Same with electronics.  Even in Malaysia i spotted an Indian import ceiling fan running good after 20 years!

Creating labour based industry was essential i knew for our survival.  In certain industries like for instance in passenger car, the FDI is unavoidable i admit.   Wherever we want it, we can take it sure.   But why should we need Pepsi and Coke in this country that drowned our own local Campa-cola and Fruitnik in misery?  Add to this Lays chips and Maggi noodles.   The quickest and smartest way to  kill your adversaries en-masse is to introduce american way of life into the  mainstream society.   One standing example is The Philippines – as someone from there related to us once how americanism struck at the very roots of the filipino native culture destroying anything and everything local in the vicinity.  Another example in the present day is the middle-eastern story; there is nothing islamic about arabis i understood except for their black and white robes; everyone started life with ‘Starbucks’ coffee first with hot cheesy croissants, lunched and dined at Burgerman and Pizza Hut – no wonder the arabs are the most spoiled people in the entire world in my opinion.   Feel extremely sad for them – for the way they have succumbed to the western way of life, forgetting their own native culture.

My little son loved KFC in Malaysia and i breathed a sigh of relief KFC was not yet in iNDIA in 1998.  Today the havoc wrecked by western food joints like Pizza Hut and KFC in India is another sad saga.    They take a big toll on the health of our young generation and most importantly they are playing with local food culture.     In what way KFC or Mcdonalds or Pizza Hut are important to India and Indians?   What is their value addition to Indian society at large?

Proudly i would tell my malaysian friends that a Carreffour or Walmart would never enter India – WE INDIANS WILL KICK THEM OUT! Same for KFC.   Breaks my heart to see these joints doing brisk business in my country today.    GenNext India is at the crossroads – and the potential damage these foreign companies could cause to India’s future gives us parents sleepless nights.  Lifestyle diseases are already rampant – and do I see another Phillipines in the making in India?

A chinese friend in Malaysia used to wash his car with coke always.   The car would be scoured clean and he would tell us, ‘look how coke cleans the car; so just think what coca cola might do to your liver!’

Used to tell my malaysian friends,  we wanted no shopping malls in India -actually we do have small ones that cater to the elites… like malls in India mostly sell only labelled apparels etc for instance… Malls don’t cater to masses the way they do in foreign countries….  In short the small sized glitzy malls in India sold imported stuff to few royal elite customers, clearing out a black market in the process.

But in shock i am totally now, because the lazy buggers Congress govt sold the country to Walmart and the likes, directly exposing us to worst financial assaults and putting our small traders, retailers and cottage industrialists at dire risk in one go.  A cap of 49% is fixed on direct FDI in retailing in India, but i can never pardon the congress govt for selling India in piecemeal like this to foreign companies.

My first shock was when Hillary Clinton dared to meet Mamata Banerjee, CM of the state of West Bengal, the only communist state of India, trying to push american retailing giants into India.  ‘What a nerve’ i thought and wondered whether it was right protocol for a visiting dignitary to directly discuss with a state CM on business dealings.     (Mamata later pulled out of the ministry not agreeing to 49% FDI in retailing in India still the central government survives as a minory govt)  To that extent the americans have guessed our weak points, what can I say.   They seem to know where to push and pull, where to apply the right pressure, where to apply the brakes.   Indian politicians are for sale, one of the most corrupt in the entire world – not at all surprised we so soon succumbed.

Even more alarming is the allowing of FDI into our pension and insurance sectors exposing the Indian public to worst and unstable global economic conditions.   So far India is doing well because we are least dependent on foreign institutions for these matters.  Indians are frugal spenders with one of world’s highest savings rate.  Why should i want to risk and lose my money and life investments to big time spenders – the western countries?

Here i want to cite a classic recent happening.  FDI into our stock/capital markets was allowed by the congress govt that saw Rupee gaining heavily against the US dollar prior to 2007.  I am one of the small investors who invested moderately in our stock market.   Many american foreign funds were investing in Indian stock markets and overnight investors made a handsome profit – FOR A WHILE – i must admit.   But came the sudden global economic crash, poor and hapless middleclass iNDIAN investors were in for greatest shocks of their lives, when foreign funds took flight overnight and the markets fell  unimaginable lowest levels touching rock bottoms almost.   FIIs (foreign institutional investors) made a quick buck and quick exit shamelessly out of the sweat and hardwork of Indian middleclass – how many suicides they instigated in this country is horrible, with some pensioners losing their life savings overnight.   Until now my stocks have not returned to their pre-2007 levels.  The FIIs lured indian investors into honey trap and made good with hard earned money.     Showed our public new highs they were not exposed to previously.    Until FII came to Indian markets we were somewhat stable – there had been one or two scams alright, but Indian investors were seldom greedy; growth came in a slow pace but growth was consistent; no false promises, no sudden crashes either.   But came the selfish and shameless FIIs and then started our tought times.  With a thud, our masses got dropped to earth being taken for a ride by the callous FIIs- and ever since, the Indian masses are skeptical about foreign investors.   WE DON’T WANT FDI/FII IN INDIA, WE DON’T WANT WALMART, THAT’S IT!  GET OUT WALMART!     And who are these guys to lay our roads for us,  build factories and storages for us?  Do that in America, Walmart, you are not wanted in India!  That Walmart says its stocks will be sourced right from India only comes as little or no consolation.    First of all i don’t TRUST them!

Happy to learn Walmart is embroiled in a legal tangle here already.   They are wholesale suppliers anyway.  Want nothing short of Walmart being kicked out of India.   Obama and Hillary Clinton – you two are the most hated americans in India today.  BJP, the opposition, has already promised that if they come to central power next, they will repeal the FDI enactments and kick out the foreign investors.

Trying to enter the tight Indian retailing sector, i have come across articles in the media often describing how the american corporations were lobbying and spending milions of dollars to get a share of this great Indian middle-class pie.   So far very proud that we kept the detractors out, but crestfallen now.   I don’t want shopping malls in India; i don’t mind buying from petty shops, small retailers; they are the backbone of the great, resilient Indian economy.  Waiting and watching how Walmart is going to go about these allegations and court cases.  Eventually they might find a way out : because there is a price for every politician in this country.  Pay the right price, get your job done:  this is our national motto.   Very sad but true.

Once upon a time in this nation, Gandhi and other congress leaders started the ‘Swadeshi’ movement burning the British imports and vowing never to touch foreign goods in their lives.  In the same country now their congress successors can’t have enough selling the nation piece by piece, part by part, without an ounce of shame or conscience in their body and mind.

PS:  not totally averse to FII/FDI in Indian economy.   Want no foreign participation absolutely in our stock markets and in our pension funds and in insurance sector as well as in banking.   The list of Indian banks investing hard earned Indian money losing their valuable savings to american banks is l…o…n…g; today they are surviving because they have a strong base in India.  Here we don’t dish out loans without collateral first.   My blood boils at the loss of our banks at the hands of those like Lehman Brothers… we don’t deserve this…

PS:  I see a good level of FDI in furniture industry which i welcome.  Most indian imports are from Indonesia which means less number of trees can be cut in India.   This works out best for both nations:  India and Indonesia.  It is precisely this sort of arrangement i seek from FII/FDI investors from foreign countries.  Investments in the fields of science, technology and medicine must be welcome.  But pack the Lay chips and Pepsi and Coke and Pizzas with their culture to where they rightfully belong.  These must have NO PLACE in India.  If i am the PM, i won’t think twice about kicking out these useless fellows.

PS:   Had a passionate argument on this with my hubby who says nothing can undo India.    Says our economy is too big, crowds too huge that there will always exist a market for small traders and retailers no matter what.   Argues the local idli shops never felt threatened by arrival of KFC and road side dhabas are and will always be Indian masses’ no.1 choice.   Says our metros are hundreds of years old, congested and saturated so Walmart will have to relocate only in the outermost farflung suburbs thereby catering to only those of our population who can find time and transport to reach the multi-branded stores.   Says infra will definitely improve, and India will swallow Walmart also as we have done with everything in the past and will grow!   By our sheer size, we will survive says he!

In pesticides, fertilizers etc, the american firms have supposedly made a backdoor entry long back and almost hold a monopoly in this country.   I am not sure though.   Feel a strong distrust and hatred for multi-branded chain stores always from the bottom of my heart. Favour them in foreign countries no doubt, and won’t miss them in my foreign trips – but when it comes to India, a big NO to them always!

From → Dilli Durbar

One Comment
  1. I could not refrain from commenting. Exϲеptionally wekl ԝritten!

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