Home / Industry / Andhra inks deals, unveils new retail policy

Visakhapatnam: Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s government had a busy and fruitful day at the Partnership Summit in Visakhapatnam on Monday.

It inked deals covering a gamut of sectors—retail, steel and gas, among others, and pledged policy changes that would ensure ease of doing business.

The state government signed pacts worth 1,500 crore with Walmart India, Future Group, Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd and Spencer’s Retail even as Naidu unveiled a policy—touted as the first-ever retail policy by a state in India—that makes it easier for retailers to do business in the state.

The policy proposes single-desk clearance of business plans, lets stores stay open longer, makes it easier for retailers to acquire land to build warehouses, simplifies labour laws and relaxes stocking limits for essential commodities, among others.

The policy is aimed at attracting investments worth 5,000 crore and creating 20,000 additional jobs in the sector by 2020. The policy will be valid for five years.

“The future is in retail without any doubt," Naidu said on the second day of the three-day Partnership Summit in Visakhapatnam, citing the sector’s huge employment potential and the need for more affordable products.

“My government is totally committed (to business)," he added at the event organised jointly by industry lobby Confederation of Indian Industry and the state government.

Top retail executives present at the event, including Future Group chief executive Kishore Biyani, Walmart India head Krish Iyer, Aditya Birla Retail Ltd CEO Vishak Kumar and K. Raheja Corp group president Neel Raheja (who is also a Shoppers Stop board member) welcomed the move and hoped other Indian states will follow suit.

“Andhra Pradesh has led the way in areas like Essential Commodities Act and ease of doing business. It will set a benchmark after the retail policy," Biyani said.

“With increased ease of doing business, we can get more time to take care of customers and products than the government," he added.

Biyani’s company plans to set up stores in seven cities in Andhra Pradesh over the next six months.

Arvind Lifestyle Brands chief executive Alok Dubey termed the new retail policy “promising", considering it has been launched at a time when India does not even recognise the retail sector as an industry.

Andhra Pradesh, which gets about 33% of its gross state domestic product from the retail sector, will allow stores in the state to issue bills (tax invoices) to shoppers in an electronic form and avoid physical receipts. It will also exclude retailers from having to pay a fee to the state to install signboards at their stores displaying their trade name.

It also promised better rail connectivity to backward areas, reliable power infrastructure and simplified processes to investors in the state. It is investing in a skill development programme for its youth.

Reliable infrastructure in power alone could help companies such as Aditya Birla Retail Ltd save as much as 15% on capital expenditure, Vishak Kumar said.

Meanwhile, Walmart India signed a pact with SERP to support women farmers. SERP, or the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty, is an autonomous body under the state’s ministry of rural development.

“The key areas of our growth focus will be working with small farmers, providing relevant training and skills to staff and promoting women entrepreneurs," Krish Iyer said.

Iyer praised the move to simplify labour laws. “In South East Asian countries, retail stores are permitted to operate 24x7, which gives them a possibility of providing a shopping environment where all fixed assets are better utilized," Iyer said.

Raheja hoped the policy would help the sector mature faster in the country. “Retail in India is at a very early stage. In China, there could be a 100 malls under development but in India there won’t even be 15-20. With a little bit of facilitation from the government, a lot can change in the next five years," Raheja said.

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