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Countryside attracts hypermarkets

Anil Sasi

New Delhi , Sept. 24

THE gold rush in retailing seems to be shifting to the villages. More big-ticket companies, including tobacco-to-hospitality major ITC, petroleum marketers BPCL and HPCL, and the DCM Shriram group, are making a beeline to set up elaborate shopping plazas in the villages to tap the purchasing power of the rural folk.

And in keeping with the rustic flavour, the `hypermarkets' are stocking up items ranging from groceries to seed to even tractors. ITC, for instance, has already taken the lead by soft-launching its first rural hypermarket `Choupal Sagar,' spread over five acres of land at Sehore in Madhya Pradesh.

Petroleum major BPCL has also kicked-off its rural retail foray with its "Hariyali Kissan Bazaar" store at Shahjehanpur in Uttar Pradesh. BPCL plans to extend the Bazaar, which is stocking a host of items ranging from pesticides to farm equipment currently, to include large format retail stores stocking grocery and other everyday items.

Going by the initial response, the concept seems to be gaining favour among the rural masses. ITC's `Choupal Sagar' is witnessing footfalls of about 700-800 people on weekdays, which has been going up to 1,000 people on weekends. With investments of roughly Rs 3-4 crore per store, ITC plans to open around 50 such stores across rural Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh over the next one year.

DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd (DSCL) has also decided to tap the opportunity, with plans to open up 30 stores in rural areas of north India over the next two years.

Not to be left behind, the local sugar cooperatives in rural Maharashtra have opened comparatively smaller supermarkets on their own. These markets stock goods at cheaper prices than those available in the local kirana shops.

In addition to the shopping opportunity, the retail ventures are trying to draw the crowds by offering useful information such as `Hariyali Bazaars' extending the latest agricultural technologies to farmers.

HPCL's venture, called `Apna Pump', consists of de-scaled petrol pumps situated away from the highways and run by rural entrepreneurs.

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Countryside attracts hypermarkets

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