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India-specific retail route to emerge, says Govt

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Mr Kamal Nath, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, releasing the Images yearbook at Images Fashion Forum 2005 in Mumbai on Wednesday. Paul Noronha
Mr Kamal Nath, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, releasing the Images yearbook at Images Fashion Forum 2005 in Mumbai on Wednesday. Paul Noronha

Our Bureau

Mumbai, Jan. 19

THE Ministry of Commerce and Industry will meet key retail players next week to derive an `India-specific retail' route to foreign direct investment (FDI).

"When you talk of FDI in mall development or the shopping sector development you won't be disappointed for very long. We will meet and discuss this in the next couple of weeks," said Mr Kamal Nath, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry, while addressing the inaugural session of Images Fashion Forum 2005.

The Minister said he would conduct detailed discussions with the retail industry on how to unleash its potential and give the retail sector the focus it deserves in an India-specific way.

"We cannot follow the Walmart and Tescos rate of business as a pattern. We have to derive an India-specific pattern," Mr Nath said, while suggesting that the whole issue of FDI in retail has to be incremental, resulting in greater economic activity and employment.

Retailers pointed out that there was a dire need for an industry status and the Government must stop protecting small retailers and encourage them to change, modernise and grow.

The other items on the wish-list included creating a Central policy for retail as in case of VAT and setting up a single window clearance.

Mr B.S. Nagesh, Managing Director and CEO, Shoppers' Stop, said, "Indian retail has no parentage in the Government of India. We do not know which Ministry to report to. The Government should grant us industry status."

Retailing should be allowed to drive the economy through increased consumption for which there was already a demand from the earning class.

The approach would have to be developing, rather than controlling, Mr Nagesh pointed out.

The Government in November had shown interest in retail of specific brand of products like mobile phones.

Mr Kishore Biyani, Managing Director, Panataloon Retail India Ltd, however, urged the Government to reconsider its decision.

"India should not open its doors to foreign retail. It is better to develop modern retail industry here than give business away to Walmart and Tescso," he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 20, 2005)
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