People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 39

September 25, 2011


Walmart Enters Small Towns


R Raghu


VIJAYAWADA though known throughout the country for various reasons, is comparatively a small city with 12 lakh population. Of course, in the region it has been a commercial centre. But slowly it is also turning out to be the 'guinea pig' for various central government schemes that are intended to further its neo-liberal economic policies. ‘Best Price Shop’ of Bharati Walmart Pvt Ltd, a pseudo name for Walmart opened a shop spreading in nearly 4.50 acres. The shop is in the outskirts of Vijayawada in a village called Nidamanuru. The shop was inaugurated on September 15, 2011 with a huge fanfare. The CEO of Bharati Walmart, Raj Jain said the store was the first of its’ kind in this state and the ninth store in the country, and also said the city was chosen in view of the wholesale market potential in the region and that Walmart was contemplating opening similar stores in neighbouring Guntur too, shortly.


This move follows soon after the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by the cabinet secretary, Ajit Kumar Seth has cleared a proposal to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, which is a step closer to opening the market to multinational retailers such as Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour and many others. Contradictory reports are appearing in the media that FDI in multi-brand retail might not be 'possible' till April 2012. But the reality is, once given a slight breach, they are widening it as far as possible to rush and gobble the entire retail sector.


Though Walmart officials say that it is a business to business (B2B) shop, covertly their actions reveal they are intending to capture retail market in the city as well as in other towns in the Krishna district. The stores, according to information gathered, will start with 5000 items including wide range of fresh, frozen chilled foods, fruits and vegetables; dry groceries; personal and home care items to cater to the day-to-day needs of restaurant owners, hoteliers, caterers, fruit and vegetable resellers and kirana stores etc.


Right from street vendors, hawkers (though they say they would entertain only businessmen with valid trade license) to small and big businessmen they are sending SMSs saying that Walmart would sell all items at the lowest price prevailing in the city. They are also announcing huge 'encouragement price discounts' and prizes. As per our survey, though random, it seems Walmart officials contacted each and every business institution and asked them to register with Walmart. On the other hand, they are threatening popular local sellers, who are commanding different markets to handover their market to Walmart or face dire consequences. They had even refused to allow a delegation of the CPI(M) to visit the premises and discuss issues.


The CPI(M) Vijayawada City Committee organised a round-table discussion on September 22, 2011. Many businessmen and dignitaries participated in it and chalked out an action plan. Gannavaram division committee has distributed pamphlets, sold booklets in and around Nidamanuru to highlight the evils of such a multinational entering small towns like ours.