With the objective to strengthen the ecosystem for small retailers and to future-proof them for India’s $5 trillion economy, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and Center of Policy Research and Governance (CPRG) India in association with METRO Cash & CarryIndia organized a multi-stakeholder conference, ‘Retail Samvad’ on the theme ‘Future of small retail: Strengthening & Skilling retailers for India@100’ in New Delhi.L-R: Aditya Jha; Sudhanshu Trivedi, Member, Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson of BJP; B B Swain, Secretary, MSME, GOI; Arvind Mediratta unveiling the recommendation report of Retail Samvad 3.0The conclave was graced by Dr. Sudhanshu Trivedi, Member of Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson of BJP, and B. B. Swain, Secretary, Ministry ofMicro Medium and Small enterprises, Government of India who unveiled the recommendation report of Retail Samvad 3.0.The inaugural address on Future of small retail: Strengthening & Skilling retailers for India@100was delivered by Dr. Sudhanshu Trivedi, Member of Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson of BJP, who said,”The Retail sector is one of the key sectors to accelerate India to a $5 trillion economy. For the benefit of sector, the Government has included traders and retailers in the ambit of MSME. To safeguard them, the Government also brought the rule of disallowing global tender for procurement up to Rs. 200 Cr. Today, the mind-set has changed from job seeker to job creator with the PM Mudra Yojna wherein over 34 Cr. people have taken small loans under the Mudra Yojna. In conservative estimates, if one-third of them have created a single job, close to 12 crore jobs would have been generated which is a transformational change at the grass-root level.”The first panel discussion focused on the topic: Implementation of NRP: Need for level playing field for small retailers for their sustainable operation. As the retail sector has been experiencing the effect of formalisation of economy and digitalisation, the sector needs National Retail Policy which includes the interests of the small retail, modern retail and ecommerce partners and establish a level playing field for both online and offline retailers. Small retailers and kiranas need to be empowered with data analytics to increase their sales and footfall.Sharing his views on the National Retail Policy, Mr. Arvind Mediratta, Chairperson for Retail and Internal Trade, FICCI and MD & CEO of METRO Cash & Carry India, said, “Since the pandemic, the retail sector has been evolving with digitalization and formalisation of the economy. As kiranas are the backbone of Indian retail economy, it’s pertinent that we empower them. Local Kiranas are known for their low cost and last mile delivery. They are very astute and make profits even ins smaller market. A comprehensive retail policy will provide a major fillip to the sector and provide the required level playing field for both online and offline retailers. National Retail Policy will also help technology adoption in the sector and ensure implementation of minimum wages and employee welfare schemes, and will lead to many entrepreneurial success stories while attracting quality talent.”Speaking on Government initiatives for the retail sector, B B Swain, Secretary, Ministry of Micro Medium and Small enterprises, Government of India, said, “Retail sector is an integral part of the economy. In about 15 months since the time wholesale and retail trades were allowed in Udyam Portal, as many as 2.9 million wholesale and retail businesses have registered. This constitutes over 25% of all registrations that had taken place on the Udyam System. The figure underscores the importance of the sector. We are working towards bringing formalisation in the informal sector. Their formalisation will help them to have easy access to credit. We hope to reduce the credit gap with concerted efforts. Formalisation and credit felicitation will become more effective with policy recommendation. Based on stakeholder demand, we extended non-tax benefits for 3 years instead of 1 year to all MSMEs if their categorization status has changed upwards. I will be looking forward to see the outcome from today’s discussion and will endeavour to take them to their logical conclusion.” Talking about policy intervention to ring-fence small retailers, Dr. SP Sharma, Economist, said, “Considering the vulnerability and importance of the sector, it is important to move forward with a crystal-clear policy. Right now, the investment environment is not that conducive. The sector has a high potential of attracting investment. It has a major role to play in India becoming a $5 Trillion economy. According to various reports, there are more than 30 approvals required to set up a retail business. We have to come forward with a liberal, transparent policy for domestic players without many barricades. We have a great capacity to absorb any opportunity from e-commerce to direct selling. There are some issues which are favourable to a certain sector and not so to the other sector. We need to have a balanced approach. The longer-term policy will be of much benefit to the sector.”Adding to the discussion, Mr. Satish N.S. President Haier Appliances, India, “For the large retailers, the cost of selling is not going to come down. It is upon the interest of larger organisation that smaller retailers survive. The fundamental difference is that in US, people buy online because of convenience. In India people buy online because of discount. If the discount drops, people would leave the online channel. If the predatory pricing is controlled, the bottom of the pyramid can take care of itself.”The daylong event concluded with think tanks deliberating on decoding skill gaps amongst the kiranas, and how retail giants can help empower and upskill small retailers and MSMEs with financial literacy.