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Trade bandh sets in with Bharti and Wal-Mart tie-up

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Siblings Sunil Mittal and Rajan Mittal of Bharti Group assured many a times that the Indian format of Wal-Mart would help the existing hawkers, retailers, wholesalers and vendors to flourish. However, those promises do not seem to be making any impact on the general trade’s attitude towards Wal-Mart. It seems the Airtel owners’ network failed to reach the target audience through the leading English media (wherein Sunil Mittal’s exclusive interviews are featured quoted, “We will co-exist with mandis”).

Two days after the announcement by Bharti of a joint venture with Wal-Mart, the country’s hawkers, retailers, wholesalers and vendors have started sloganeering against the tie-up. The protests will officially begin tomorrow from the country’s commercial capital Mumbai. “While Vyapar Rozgar Suraksha Kriti Samiti of Maharashtra plans to stage protest on August 9 in Mumbai, the Central Market Merchants’ Association has called for a trade bandh on August 13 for the same cause,” sources told Indiaretailing. Meanwhile, it is also learnt that many other associations across tier I and II cities are set to join the protests.

“Many organisations across the country are opposing the move and we hope to coordinate with them to bring about an effective protest,” said Mohan Gurnani, director of Mumbai Agricultural Produce Market Committee.

“Nearly 5,000 small vendors coming under the limits of Mangalore City Corporation earn their livelihood by selling vegetables, fruits, flowers and other items. We will not allow any corporate retailers to override them,” said Hameed Kandak, general secretary of Central Market Merchants’ Association.

According to him, several daily wage earners and other labourers are dependent on the local vendors to meet their day-to-day requirements. The proposed entry of the retail giants will affect the interests of these vendors and labourers.

When enquired about Mittal’s statements and the possibilities of these reaching to the masses, a senior editor in Malayala Manorama commented: “Mittal’s intention might be good. But the main problem is that their communications haven’t reached the masses through local media. We don’t see their exclusive interviews in a regional daily and that’s the point from where the message spreads out to the masses. I don’t think any hawker or peddler loves reading the Reuters or the Economic Times.”

It’s time for the Mittals to mull over this.

– Vishnu Rageev R, Bangalore Bureau

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