First, to all Bongs out there - Shubho Bijoya!
Again, I am amazed at a couple of things - one going through Desipundit's sticky on the IIPM versus everybody and their uncle has now written about this plus the issue of 'legal notarised emails' - which one very prominent lawyer is trying to decipher for me - the size of the battle between Ponytail and the blogs has gone way beyond a small thing - IIPM is the top search on Technorati. I mean almost everyone I know who has a blog has written about it - but really other than an online article in HT (carried HT Bombay Page 3) and a mention in the Mumbai Mirror, no-one has actually commented on this issue in the media. And then, I suddenly realised that 'Damn! I work for the mainstream media' - so I've decided to write an actual story on the matter. No, it will not be a Ponytail is bad story, in fact after going through what happened across the blogosphere over the last few days - I don't think that the man with the 1000-watt smile really did anything wrong himself - of course, you never know if 'Andy' was Ponytail, maybe even the "Real' Gaurav Sabnis was Ponytail - because Ponytail has pretended to be people before - like Deepak Parekh for example, so I can't put anything beyond him. Plus, Ponytail doesn't like bad publicity - in fact, I'm surprised ICPAR (Ponytail's in-house PR agency) hasn't issued releases on how bad Blogs are - because I'm damn well certain that the magazine that claims a print run (unverifiable - like almost everything Ponytail claims) of 57,000 copies will do a piece condemning blogs. And they will get stalwarts like hmmm, maybe Ponytail to chime in. Shit, this is bad, I should not let my personal opinion of Ponytail colour my copy. Must not, must not...
Keep checking out the Desipundit sticky - for more updates on the matter.
EDIT : I think there is too much talk of ponytails and 1000-watt smiles, so we should move on. Now moving on to the great Indian retail hungama - because that is the story that the Pinkest Paper carried as its flyer today. But in true Indiatimes style the story isn't linked from the ET website. And frankly, I don't have the patience to even bother searching Indiatimes, which is possibly the worst designed large Indian portal - and I'm not saying this because I once worked there. But what we do see on ET's website is a rather strange article on how the world's best steel raider parties when he is the capital.
Anyway, back to the point - Indian retail is going to be the next big thing if you are to believe the Pink papers and Business magazines - Rs 30,000 crore market annually. From a nation of kirana shops we are going to become a nation of hypermarts - Mukeshbhai, Kishore Biyani and Noel Tata are going to become India's WalMart and Tesco's. Guess who are ensuring that WalMart can't enter India (Left Parties, my right tatta!). Now, my experience of a hypermarket was quire surreal - I went to a local WalMart in the Atlanta suburbs last summer - and while I still use the rucksack which I picked up for $22 over there (a similar bag would have cost me Rs 4000 back home) it wasn't so much the price but the size of the place that freaked me out over 100,000 square feet of 'cents-off' products. Plus, also the size of everything (unlike the micro-sized satchet market that is India) - I couldn't find a small bottle of shampoo for example (even though the H&S I bought lasted eight months). And there was the bit about the guns being right next to the fishing rods - real shotguns with real bullets. But then again, I was in bloody Georgia, USA!
And now Reliance, Tata Trent and Pantaloon are going around buying acres of land across rural and semi-urban India. The methods their realtors are using, can be described politely as 'arm twisting' (Even though, from hearsay, I believe that they are paying 30-40 per cent over market values for the land). Each store while not WalMart hypermarket - these will be 30,000 to 40,000 square feet of small size goodness. From what I've heard these guys will set up almost 20-30 stores within the next five years.
So, my querstion to Mr Karat (again) is, "Sir, what happens to your good ol' small trader then?" Because, these stores will definately screw small traders - and I'm surprised that the BJP - the trading community's favourite party has maintained a muted silence on the issue. Maybe the fact Mukeshbhai is behind one of the ventures is a reason for their silence, but then again, the BJP is hardly coherent enough to talk nowadays.
I have no concrete opinion on mega-marts. In a way, I think they will be a boon to the consumer, but they will drive many small businesses to the ground. However they will also provide employment to thousands of people - directly and indirectly. But is having 50 megamarts by 2010-2012 going to be a sign of progess. I really don't know.