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Kerala consumers back big retail entry

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A group of customers in northern Kerala has decided to raise their voice in favour of the big retail chains if it means better bargains for them.

When Upabhoktru Samrakshana Samiti (consumer protection forum) based in Mukkom in Kozhikode district, Kerala, recently organised a rally welcoming the entry of organised retailers, about 2,000 people participated, raising their voice in favour of a proposed Reliance outlet in Mukkom. The consumer forum members claim that 95 per cent of the consumers are with them.

When contacted, Samiti General Secretary Sadiq Ali told Indiaretailing that the idea of forming a platform to counter local traders was prompted by four hartals in the last six months held by the traders against big retailers, in their attempt to block anyone setting up shop in the town.

The support for organised retail players starkly contradicts the stand of the CPM government, which recently admonished two party leaders in Kochi for associating themselves with the opening of Reliance outlets in the city. The consumers’ demand also goes against the stand of Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (KVVES), the largest association of traders in the state insisting that big retailers be denied entry.

Samiti President Abdulla Koya rubbished allegations that the protests against local traders are funded by big retailers. “As far as we know, many of the local traders neither pay sales tax nor give any great benefits to the consumer. And now that we are supporting the idea of some competition, such allegations are being raised against us,” he said.

One of Kerala’s prominent television channels recently telecast a debate wherein consumers were seen supporting the corporate retailers. “Why are you worried about big retailers? If you give us quality products at affordable rates, we are happy to shop from your store; if not, we will stop shopping from your store. Let the corporate retailers also come in. Give us a chance to see the difference,” an old lady said to a KVVES representative.

– Vishnu Rageev R, Bangalore Bureau

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