Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Retailers Are Coming!

And they all are going into retailing. Would the neighborhood kirana shops be going, going, gone? The Tatas, Birlas have discovered that retailing is the in thing to be in. Even Walmart is coming. Today I saw a recruitment agency’s executives in tee shirts with logo and all, giving the spiel to every youth who would listen. The cause? Yes, they are recruiting for one of India’s top business groups. The business? Retailing.

I had this experience the other day. I am moving house (since I don’t have much space in my present abode, I am reconstructing it into a two-storied building and meanwhile I have this one-bedroom flat as temporary arrangement), and this happened last Sunday as I was buying some cleaning material for the flat from the neighborhood kirana shop. Since we buy from him on a regular basis (our orders are placed on the phone and he delivers to our house, even if it is a small, emergency order for candles!), and have trusted him over more than nineteen years we have been living here. As it was also raining we were making the usual small talk.

I told him that we are moving to a nearby place. He suggested to me everything I should buy, including which cleaner is effective for the toilet, the floor, and which mop would last long and was money’s worth. I trusted his information, and all the products he suggested. He is the filter, thorugh whom I have avoided buying the soap that would give me a rash, the hair oil that would not take away whatever hair I have on my pate. I bought all he suggested because I have built this rapport with him over the years.

Is this trust, this camaraderie with the local retailer, going to die once the big retailers come into the glitzy, glassy mall down the road? I dare not broach the subject with him. But I am sure they (the retailers) wouldn’t deliver me a supply of candles in an emergency.


Just now I visited the nearby mall. I don't shop much at the mall, I go there to look.Actually, I find roaming in a mall very relaxing, I am at peace looking at the hundreds of styling gels, thousands of fruit juices, after bath splashes, even exfoliators (God alone knows what it is!).

The Dollar Store (yes it is called that) store manager is training the sales person. “Good evening madam, here's a special offer.” The guy isn't saying it confidently, so they go over and over again. “Say it again,” the manager says overbearingly.The boy cowers.

Then I go into the food market. I don't usually buy from here, but I am here to check how confident I am. There are aluminimum foils “Buy two and get four FREE.” I can't believe this! For ninety two rupees I am getting three hundred rupees worth. My wife would scream if she hears this, being a purveyor of special offers.

And you won't believe this: they are selling credit cards inside the super store. Yes, a girl is there beside me, eagerly filling the form, of an already ensnared customer. I buy a packet of six socks which I consider a good deal, and then move to the long queue at the cash counter.

It seems a family has bought their year's worth of moong dal, chana dal, wafers, snacks, etc. And the matron of this family and her daughter are delving into the huge cart to bring a never ending cornucopia of daily necessities. And the clerk runs out of change. So he goes hunting for change and almost fifteen minutes pass as I look this way and that. Finally to kill the time I buy a two packets of biscuits which seem cheap.

And I am done!

If this is the future of retailing, I might as well get used to it.

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