The day two of the Images Food & Grocery Forum India 2012 saw an interactive session between food importers and an official of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Called “The FIFI Conclave: The Force Behind Unifying Gourmet Food Importers and Alignment with Modern Retail,” the event saw the FSSAI Deputy Director AIS Kumar discuss the latest food safety regulations and FBO registrations with the importers and retailers of imported food.
Kumar reassured the assembled audiences that all problems of the food importers and retailers will be taken care of by the government in due course of time in terms of getting licenses, permits, etc. “Please have patience. We are on your side,” he said.
Amit Lohani, Convener, FIFI (Forum of India Food Importers), noted that modern trade is a still a very small part of India’s retail industry. Of this, gourmet is even a more miniscule part. “Though we are competitors as importers, we approach FSSAI, a single body on the platform of FIFI, to present a united front,” he said, speaking on behalf of the food importers.
Sumit Saran of SCS Group said: “The buzz around the Images Food & Grocery Forum India 2012 shows the growing importance of this sector. India, if it has to feed its people, will have to import food. The sooner we realise, the better for all of us.”
Puneet Gupta of LCompes Impex said: “ Through this forum, we have been able to share our thoughts and issues with FSSAI, which has heard us out and given us leeway to conform to Indian laws.”
Sreejith Mohan of Godrej Nature’s Basket gave a retailer’s perspective. He said: “FIFI has made it possible for retailers like us to collaborate with different stakeholders. Thanks to FIFI, we as retailers can avoid fly-by-night operators and the grey market of imported food products and be reassured about the quality. All of this adds a lot of customer-centric value to our stores.”
Amitabh Taneja, CEO and MD of Images Group, said: “We have actively collaborated with FIFI since its inception. Through our magazine ‘Progressive Grocer,’ we have raised their issues, created new consumption patterns, and introduced new categories in the market. We have partnered with FIFI for a nine-year period for our Food Forum.” Taneja told the audiences that the game is not about competition but collaboration. “It is not about the size of the pie. It is about growing the pie so that we all have bigger slices,” he said.
Lohani said that retailers are now bound to see more genuine products enter shop shelves as grey market shrinks. Many FIFI members, however, felt that with big food retail chains such as Walmart, Metro, and Spar setting up their own imported food sections, this can be a threat to the Indian food importers. Sumit Saran of SCS Group too agreed and said that big retailers are bypassing wholesalers and becoming director importers. This is becoming a global phenomenon. Taneja of Images Group advised the food importers to evolve into entrepreneurs from merely being middle men.