Sunday, October 7, 2007

Retail’s long tale

The positive effects of retail go beyond job creation

If not for anything else but to check the spread of AIDS and road accidents, the retail boom is imperative. I’m sure that many of you would be guessing as to what am I up to? Well for the most in the country, it is no more a surprise that the organised retail is all set for a virtual explosion. For itself, Indian retail sector had been one of the largest contributors to the GDP (almost 10%, as per CII-AT Kearney retail study) and to inflate that, the Subhiksha’s, the Spencers, the Big Bazaar’s and the Reliance Fresh are infusing a new set of business imperatives and in so doing, releasing socio-economic stimulus. What more, the foreign giants like the Walmarts and Carrefours are watching and waiting and as well are impatient to make an entry, in favour of $270 billion (of which almost 96% is in the unorganised sector) market volume.

So what is the connection between the AIDS, road accidents and the boom in the retail sector! The connection is the manifestation of the huge demand of trained workforce it is going to create in the areas of logistics. In order to pre-empt the impending workforce deficits, a good number of private initiatives are visibly undertaken across the country. But many of the players are oblivious to the multiplicity of the nature of the problem. If one were to apply the principles of ‘Freakonomics’, on a closer look, it becomes amply clear that it’s not just the demand for the skilled workforce, who would be needed to man the huge stores. A white paper recently concluded by KPMG states that currently there are around 3 million truck drivers, the demand for which is going to swell multifold to nearly 51 million by 2015. Also the current demand for warehouse managers stands at 14,000 which is bound to be growing by more than 250% i.e 35000 by 2015. This kind of employment generation would by far offset the imminent job loss in the unorganised sector. Not just this, the cost of churning trained truck drivers and warehouse managers are seemingly so low that there are actually no pressures of allocating large resources for the same. The only thing is that the quality of training needs to be systematically benchmarked, strictly monitored and steadily scaled.

In fact, it is this training which is going to be the key. The right kind of training would invariably have enduring public benefits. In our country we know that the truck drivers have been the most potent carriers of deadly viruses like AIDS and have also been increasingly responsible for road accidents. It is for the same reason unfortunately we as a nation have earned the dubious distinction of housing the maximum number of AIDS cases and highest number of road accidents in the world. So if a proper driving training is clubbed with an effective AIDS awareness program then it not only would just arrest the spread of the virus but would also reduce fatal accidents on the road.

Frankly, as a nation we could not have asked for more: intensive economic paybacks and extensive social benefits, all interlinked!! All the more reason for making this tale of retail spread its wings far and wide in India.


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