A round-up of the big stories hitting India. Today: upper house quashes last challenge to FDI in retail, minister says he has no plans to raise tax on edible oil imports, premium food is big on growth and how England's cricketers are too 'finicky'.
Last challenge to FDI defeated by upper house
The government has won a critical vote to allow majority-share foreign direct investment in the retail sector, thereby opening the doors for major international retail chains.
India’s upper house, the Rajya Sabha, defeated a bill aimed at banning FDI by 123 votes to 109. It was the final step to quash the bill, which was voted down in India’s lower house last week.
It now frees the government to allow FDI of up to 51 per cent in multi-brand retail outlets that sell direct to the public
“It will introduce new technology and investment in marketing agricultural produce. India must take full advantage of modern technology and operational and management experience of big supply chains in the food retail business to make this happen,” the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, said after the vote.
No plans for rise in edible oil duty
India'sfood minister has asserted that he has no plans to increase duties on edible oil imports, in spite of mounting pressure from indigenous producers.
India is the world's biggest importer of edible oil and charges zero duty on crude oil and 7.5% on refined imports.
This, according to the Solvent Extractors' Association of India, is having a significant impact on oilseed farmers. As a result, the body has called for an increase in duty to 10% for crude and 20% for refined.
But the minister, KV Thomas, is unmoved. "I don't have any proposal as of now to increase import duty on edible oil," he told reporters when asked if the ministry had plans to change the import tariff structure.
Premium food segment on the rise but retailer patience is needed
According to the Technopak retail consultancy, India's gourmet food industry is set to double in value to be worth US$2.7 by 2015. It currently stands at US$1.3.
To capitalise on this growth, Future Group has launched two premium Foodhall stores, in Mumbai and Bangalore, while Godrej has increased its number of Nature's Basket outlets to 24.
"We are trying to make consumers aware of subtle differentiators," Foodhall's concept head, Avni Biyani, told Knowledge at Wharton. "It might not be right to say that the palate of Indians has changed, but we can safely say that it is evolving."
The key to capitalising on this trend is patience, according to Mohit Khattar of Nature's Basket. "Some stores have done fabulously well from the first quarter onwards, but on average, most stores break even in the seventh or eighth quarters post-launch," he told the business school.
England cricketers 'finicky' while Indian captain piles on the spice
The Hindu Business Line has reported that England's cricket team, having gone one-up in a four-match tour of India, are too "finicky" when it comes to their choice of dressing-room food.
"According to the caterers, Bijoligrill, who provide food for the participating teams, the English team is too finicky with any food other than bland and devoid of fat," the paper stated after the visiting team's victory in Kolkata.
The Indian team, on the other hand, prefer spicy food, sushi and lobster.
The report went on to say: "Indian captain MS Dhoni does not have a sweet tooth, but his choice Rajbhog can floor anybody."