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Retail seeks policy prop

Calcutta: Retailers are in favour of a comprehensive national framework for the industry that can act as guidelines for the states to have their own policies.

A central guideline could help towards the development of retail trade zones and incentive policy.

It will also create employment opportunities in different parts of the country, according to industry body Retailers Association of India, representing the interest of a wide range of players in the business from retail chain to departmental stores.

According to Kumar Rajagopalan, the chief executive officer of the Retailers Association of India, the $650-billion industry is set reach $1 trillion in the next four years and a supporting policy framework will help them.

"What the retail industry requires is a comprehensive policy, right amount of incentives and recognition beyond just service. Right now, there are different ministries like consumer affairs, commerce and industries (DIPP), agriculture and labour, dealing with different aspects of the trade," Rajagopalan said.

"Several states have started to recognise the importance of retail and the employment potential and have started building their own state level retail policies.

"States such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka have come out with their retail policies. Several other states are thinking about having their own policies. There is a need for a national policy."

Telangana and Haryana are evaluating the prospects of a retail policy. "An ideal retail policy should constitute two parts - facilitate the development of retail infrastructure and allow the ease of doing business," he added.

States with retail policy have offered single-window clearance and simplified labour laws to the players. They have provided incentives and facilitated skill and human resource development.

Besides, agriculture marketing act has been relaxed allowing sourcing from farmers.

"We think that there is no need to do away with APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee). But farmers should be at a liberty to sell their farm produce to retailers," Rajagopalan said.

Citing the example of Bengal being a largely consumption driven state, Rajagopalan said, "We see huge a amount of consumption capability in Bengal, especially in Calcutta. Most retailers in the city have seen their business grow at double digit in the last five years. To ensure that the retail business increases further, it is essential for stakeholders to come together and redevise their strategies. We have given some details (regarding a retail policy) to the state government," Rajagopalan said.

He said the dual dose of reforms - demonetisation and GST - has impacted the trade, and the industry is only recovering from the trailing effects. "Going forward, more formalisation of retail is only natural with GST."

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