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Retail Samvad: Industry Leaders Advocate for an Industry Status and an Integrated Retail Policy for the Retail Sector in India

New Delhi: In continuation of its efforts to future-proof small retailers, Kiranas, and MSMEs through constructive policy-making, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and the Center of Policy Research and Governance (CPRG) India in association with METRO Cash & Carry organized a multi-stakeholder conference, ‘Retail Samvad‘ on the theme Future of Small Retail: Resilience and Opportunities for Small Retailers in New Delhi.

Mr. Arvind Mediratta, Mr. Lalit Agarwal, Mr. Rajat Wahi, Prof. (Dr.) P B Sharma and Prof. Seema Sharma at Retail Samvad (R-L)

The inaugural address on ‘Futureproofing Small Retailers & MSMEs for India@100‘was delivered by Hon’ble Member of Parliament and Ex-IRS, Ms. Sunita Duggal who said, “Under the leadership of Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi, the government is open to addressing the issues of industries and taking concrete measures to make business easier. Ground-level solutions are required to become more operationally resilient in the retail sector. I am very impressed by the Retail Samvad initiative; it is a great platform to discuss the challenges being faced by the retail sector and the interventions required. We look forward to the recommendation by the speakers, associations, and think tanks today, to present their views towards empowering and safeguarding the interest of small retailers in India.”

The opening session focussed on the traditional trade’s resilience and how they are fighting to stay relevant in the era of quick delivery mechanisms. The speakers in this panel discussion highlighted the need for recognising the contribution of small retailers and creating an environment to support their efforts. In lieu of the policy intervention required for the retail segment, emphasizing the challenges faced by small retailers, the imminent leaders reiterated the need for a speedy intervention from the government of India.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Arvind Mediratta, Chairperson for Retail and Internal Trade, FICCI, and MD & CEO of METRO Cash & Carry India, said, “The pandemic has ushered many changes in the consumers’ evolving behavior and has also impacted the small retailers in the country. The future is omnichannel, wherein consumers would prefer the convenience of shopping online, but the enthusiasm for physical shopping will never die. There is an impending need for recognising the sector, by providing it with an industry status and the need for expediting the integrated National Retail Policy. The recommendations suggested need to be fast-tracked, embracing the interest of small retailers in India. There is a heightened need to ensure a level-playing field for all offline and online retailers, and create a conducive business environment for the growth of small retailers in India.”

The discussions were on the various policy interventions required by the government of India, heightening the need to consider the right recognition for the segment, and facilitating a better environment for small retailers for their ease of doing business. The deliberation was focused on traditional trade and small retailers’ issues with multiple licensing, renewals, clearances, and the key interventions required for their ease of operation. The think tanks of the industry also pondered on the urgent requirement for upskilling the workforce, enabling them to stay relevant and creating better employment opportunities for the segment.

Speaking about the dynamic evolving environment, Rajat Wahi, Partner, Deloitte, said, “Consumer behavior is evolving fast with the change in the business environment, especially due to the pandemic and some of the trends may continue to stay. In such a scenario, the retail sector needs to adapt to the changes quickly to sustain itself. We need to put consumers at the center, understand their needs and offer services efficiently. The sector is facing myriad challenges when it comes to policy, ease in operation and retaining the workforce. We will have to create a sustainable culture for all the stakeholders and promote the growth of the retail sector which can create huge employment opportunities.”

Talking about the policy and implementation, Lalit Agarwal, MD, V Mart, said, “The implementation and execution is equally important as that of policy formulations. We see the gap in the entire system. We need to enhance the ease of doing business with easy policies and their ground-level implementation. What lacks today is firstly the need to recognize the segment, followed by a better environment for doing business and including them in government policies with minimal paperwork.”

The daylong event concluded with recommendations and policy interventions required from the government of India to consider; include the segment in the government schemes/Yojnas, and help in recognising the sector and the valuable contribution made by the small retailers in strengthening the retail economy.