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Rural retail pioneers confer at India Retail Forum

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Is it rural India or urban India that is shining? This was the central question raised by panellists on the final day at India Retail Forum (IRF) during a discussion held on the topic ‘Retailing in Rural India’. The discussion started off with an informative speech by AMK Sinha, ED, Indian Oil, which runs over 700 Kisan Seva Kendras (KSK) across Indian villages.

Speaking about the business viability and expansion plans of KSK, Sinha said: “Our experiences in the rural area taught us that it is the real place where business comes from. We will have 1,000 Kisan Seva Kendras by 2010 and 5,000 by 2012.”

Indian Oil retails its branded petroleum products, consumer durables, FMCG products and the like, plus services. “We are initiating projects like providing purely treated portable water at our KSKs. The company plans to take up many other rural projects for the betterment of villages,” Sinha added.

Discussing about the business of ITC’s E-Choupal and Choupal Sagar stores in villages, S Shiva Kumar said, “ITC had foreseen the viability that rural retailing can bring to the company. Today, we are successfully running 20 outlets across various villages, and hope to add five more Choupal stores by this October.”

Talking about the statistics of working population across villages, Kumar informed: “About 75 per cent of the males are engaged in agricultural activities. If we look at the aspirational element of rural and urban populations, it is almost the same.”

With a brief introduction on the $1.75-billion Godrej and its rural retail format Agrovet, CK Vaidya, MD, Godrej Agrovet, said, “My parent company is 110-years-old. I would say that Godrej Agrovet is as successful as its parent, and the credit for that success goes to the country’s villages. According to estimates, there are over 6 lakh villages in India, and we will spread ourselves to many of the less-covered markets.” He said that the company’s 95 per cent business comes through rural retailing.

Talking about the challenges of rural retailing, Rajesh Gupta, business head, Hariyali Kisaan Bazaar, said: “The size of the market is not big due to the thin density of population. The rural population is not aware of the advantages that they derive from an organised retail set-up; the biggest challenge is to educate the masses.”

Hariyali Kisaan Bazaar provides everything under one roof, including agricultural products, FMCG, grocery, and financial services. The company has tie-ups with many companies and banks.

– Vishnu Rageev R

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