Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Big Boxes for India

There's an old saying about India, one that Indians sometimes recite in talking with furungis: "Big country, big problems." True enough. But I've never understood is why India sometimes compounds its own problems, such as by, for example, allowing Wal-Mart of all things into the country.

Today the Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart's plans to blitz India are moving ahead, despite its potentially devastating impact on the millions of small, mostly poor shopkeepers in that country. I explained in a previous item what a really dreadful idea this is. In a country with no social safety net, big-box retailers could mean starvation for small store owners driven out of business.

Wal-Mart's Indian partner addresses this obvious concern as follows, according to the Journal:
Rajan Bharti Mittal, joint managing director of Bharti Enterprises, which owns Bharti Retail, emphasized at a news conference that the Indian company would own the new stores and would seek to help small farmers link into its new supply chain.
Isn't that just ducky? Indian farmers, who are driven to suicide by economic pressures, would now enjoy the fruits of Wal-Mart's notoriously cut-throat buying practices!

In the U.S., Wal-Mart pays lip service to lessening its devastating impact on local economies, such as by engaging in PR initiatives. With the exception of nonsense like Bharti's "farmers will love this" statement above, the Indian enterprise makes no effort to mask the havoc it will wreak.

It will be interesting to see if the Indian people are able to stop the Wal-Mart steamroller.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.


Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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