WASHINGTON - India, home to more than 44 million small retailers, many of them family-owned, small neighborhood stores, is a land renowned for its various wallas - small traders who produce, hawk, repair or deliver just about anything you could want at any hour of the day or night.
But a recent push by some of the world's biggest multinational corporations (MNCs) like the US's Walmart, Britain's Tesco and France's Carrefour to enter India's US$450 billion consumer market could signal the swan song of the country's traditional and beloved small business sector.
Earlier this year, intense public opposition halted the Indian government's decision to open the sluice gates to increased foreign direct investment (FDI) from single- and multi-brand retailers, prompting a spate of heated debate about the possible impacts of such a move on the economy.Read it at Asia Times Online
The final decision to allow unchecked investment in a hitherto protected sector has been tabled, but the battle for small retailers is far from over.
India's stores on big-box frontier
By Kanya D'Almeida
"The proliferation of Walmart across the US has led to the lowering of income of over a million workers," Deidre Griswold, a former US presidential candidate and editor of the Workers World newspaper, told Inter Press Service (IPS).
"It has the world's biggest computer [system] and the largest fleet of trucks, both of which it touts as examples of its productivity. But what is the use of increased productivity if it's not coupled with more leisure time and better salaries for workers?"
The average "sales associate" at Walmart earned less than $250 a week, an annual income that lies well below the US's official poverty line for even small families.
"Walmart reflects the central problem with capitalism, where 'productivity' only means bigger profits for capitalists and further exploitation of workers. Most Walmart employees are only hired on a part-time basis, making it impossible for them to claim unemployment benefits even though they barely earn enough to survive," Griswold said.