Hit by Covid-19 pandemic, Indian retail industry leaders seek government support to survive, revive and reboot

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Kolkata, : The Retailers Association of India, the unified voice of Indian retailers today presented
its submission on the challenges faced by the retail industry represented by key members of its national council.
It recommended a way forward to support the industry and the nation’s economy to help overcome the
challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry’s appeal to the government to help retail
industry survive included stronger policy and fiscal interventions in the form of support for wages;
moratorium for payment of principal & interests and support in the form of working capital. 
“Retail industry employs about 46 million people, which sustains the livelihood of 250 million Indians. Food and
essentials contribute to around 50% of the total, non-essentials contribute to the other 50%. Not opening non-
essentials can have a serious impact on 20-25 million employees and 125 million Indians working in non-
essential retail and millions of other Indians working in the total supply chain from manufacturing to logistics,
wholesale & retail. India is all about consumption and retail is a gateway of consumption. If retail is not open,
it’s going to have a serious impact on other sectors such as manufacturing, entertainment and artisans among
others. If retail loses a million jobs, it will have a livelihood impact of at least 5 to 6 million,” said B.S. Nagesh,
Chairman of RAI and Founder of Trust for Retailers & Retail Associates of India calling attention to the impact
that the closure of retail will have on the economy at large.
Representing a wide array of businesses within retail were Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, RAI, Kulin Lalbhai,
Executive Director of Arvind Ltd; Rakesh Biyani, Managing Director of Future Retail; Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata
India Limited; Rahul Mehta, Managing Director of Creative Garments Pvt. Ltd. and Chief Mentor & Former
President of CMAI; and Atul Ruia, Managing Director of Phoenix Mills which has be largest mall space in the
country. Together they presented their expectations from the government and their suggestions on what’s
critical to survival, revival and rebooting the industry and, in effect, the economy.
“The key to resetting the economy is to get cash generation going. Exports will not be a silver bullet for India.
Driving domestic consumption in a safe way is going to be important. A large part of retail is based in non-
essential items; we must revive that, even as we continue providing for essentials. The industry will need
handholding in the form of financial support for around 6-9 months to emerge from the crisis. The key thing is to
ensure safe shopping and modern retail is in an excellent position to do that. Malls can have best standard
operating procedures to ensure social distancing; they can be the safest way to shop. To enable all of this, the
government and the industry must partner closely with each other,” said Kulin Lalbhai, Executive Director,
Arvind Limited.

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In line with the need to drive domestic consumption Sandeep
Kataria, CEO, Bata India Limited, said, “We support the government
on the graded opening of economic activities, including retail. But it is
important that we open all channels of consumption, including malls.
Only when consumption picks up can production happen at full
speed. We need to open up modern retail so that the 4.5 million
workers employed by the footwear industry can come back to work.”
Atul Ruia, Managing Director, Phoenix Malls, shared his perspective
on malls being one of the safest places to shop. He added, “The back
end of the industry cannot function if the front end isn’t operating.
We could implement measures in Malls such as restricted operating
hours (especially during non-peak hours); social distancing protocols;
vacant seats between patrons in cinema halls; partitions between
customers in restaurants; hand sanitizers and temperature checks at
entrances; and masks for all retail staff. The tenants in malls are all
organized retailers; they will abide by all such rules and best
practices.”

Further stressing on the importance of opening all channels of retail, Rahul Mehta said, “Manufacturing and
retail cannot do without each other. Opening manufacturing but not retail makes no commercial sense. Almost
90 percent of all manufacturing in the garment industry is MSMEs, and almost 50 percent of this workforce is
women. The survey conducted by CMAI shows that 98 percent of members are concerned about the welfare of
their workforce but don’t know how to take care of them; only 32 percent have funds to pay salaries for April;
only 8 percent have funds to pay salaries for May; and only 5 percent for June. We need working capital support;
wage support; and GST support from government. Around 90 percent of apparel retail is in brick-and-mortar
format; opening them is vital for the survival of the industry.”
For manufacturing and retail to survive, Rakesh Biyani, Managing Director of Future Retail, brought up the
need for partnerships, ““Strategic partnership with delivery services & market places, is going to be very
important to service customers even after the lock down is lifted. Kirana stores have played a very important
role during the lockdown. It is going to become very difficult, to kick-start the supply cycle, unless we receive the
support of the government to capitalise the businesses”
In closing, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, RAI, reiterated the asks by saying, “Over the last few months, we have
made many submissions to the government, and are working closely with them. The government has been very
supportive. It is very important that the industry retains its employees; we have, therefore, requested the
government and financial institutions to come together and provide a meaningful package for the retail
industry’s survival during, and revival after, the lockdown.”
The RAI has sought support from the government in the form of working capital equivalent for at least 2-3
months of revenue to pay salaries to its employees, and a moratorium of up to 9 months on payments of loans.
By further opening up retail, it will boost consumption in the country.

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