In what hints at a big shift in stance towards foreign retailers, the prime ministerial candidate for the leading opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi said on Thursday that local traders should not fear foreign retailers and go online to compete better.
He stopped short of saying that he supports entry of foreign retailers in India but his statement runs against the staunch opposition of foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail by his party BJP. Modi was speaking at Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) national convention in Delhi on Thursday.
Retailers need delivery mechanisms and strong online marketing systems. They must think of online retail as an opportunity, Modi said.
The Gujarat chief minister said traders should use technology to make it big as people even in rural areas are now looking for branded products.
He batted for e-commerce as a tool for reaching to a bigger audience and said small businessmen can do big business by setting up virtual units. "They can improve the delivery systems and go for online marketing. They can set up virtual malls," Modi said.
While FDI in multi-brand retail has already been allowed by the centre, it is now up to state governments to allow foreign retailers to set up supermarket or hypermarket chains in their respective state.
Moreover, the present government has been looking to allow foreign investment in e-commerce.
While Modi did not say he is willing to allow FDI in e-commerce, his stance suggests he is open to the idea.
On the flip side he added, "We will incorporate traders' suggestions in (election) manifesto." BJP draws support from traders and local retailers who do not welcome FDI in retail as they fear it may affect their business.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)