Will retailers charging for plastic bags help ? (esp. in the context of Indian retail)

The cloth bags instead of plastic bags seems to have taken another new form. This time it is the retailers charging the customer for the bags. I wrote about one approach to solve this problem – wherein a loyalty base is built by allowing customers redeem their cloth bag points. The retailers passing the cost directly to the customer seems to be rather tough on the customer, though a very welcome move. I think a rude awakening of this sort will jolt the customer to not assume certain QoS from the retailer, and definitely not for carrying goods. And actually, think about it – why should the retailer be bothered about the customer’s couriering needs. (S)He is selling goods with a small margin of profit, already, and even within that, the customer expects the retailer to provide with the extra service. And all this for a rather flirtatious customer who might not think twice before flirting with the next retailer who offers a cheaper price for the commodities.
The comments section of the TriplePundit has an insightful comment about why the Americans find it tough to be able to implement this. And this comment definitely needs to be taken seriously for the Indians. With almost 4 times the population of America, and an increasing urban / semi-urban population who is engorging on the FMCGs, I think it is time that the Indian retailers take a serious look at the long term impact of plastic bags. Instead of waiting for the commerce ministry to create draft regulations, I think the retail industry in India needs to wake up to the stark reality – and more importantly, make the Indian customer realise the importance of this change. It is not a pleasent sight to see all the customers to the large number of retailers (Fresh, More, Foodworld, Fabmart, Subhiksha – to name a few), carrying a plastic bag for every purchase and nonchalantly dumping this plastic bag into the dust-bin, assuming that this bag will vanish into thin air. The software junta needs to realise that plastic bags can’t be shift-deleted, and they stick around for a while.
What is the possible solution – very simple. Asking the retailer to charge the customer will not help in India. The vicious competition will be more than happy to gobble the customers. Twisting the problem around, the customer can insist on not using plastic bags. Each of us can refuse to accept a plastic bag from the retailer – instead please carry cloth bags. It matters, even if it is a single plastic bag. And it provides for the local industries to create cloth bags, thereby creating a sustainable employment and growth for a considerable percentage of the population. Think about it.

The comeback kid

Has the radio come a full circle ? Turn yourself back 25 years, and picture yourself in rural India (or even the non-metro India). This was the time when the TV was a rarity and people did not even know what cable TV meant. The major source of entertainment and information was the radio – and it was anything but sleek. People used to listen to cricket commentary on the radio, used to carry it on tractors, and heck, you possibly could see those gargantuan radios with knobs on either side. And yes you will not be looked down if you imagined this as the black and white world (due apologies to Bill Waterson !). A good nice song on the radio meant the host would increase the volume and let the world enjoy it.
From the past, now to the present – so many things changed. Now the world is in HDTV. Quite a number of things have been relegated to history’s pages, and people thought that radio also might become a relic of the past. After languishing without much interest in it, the radio seems to make a comeback. And specifically FM radio, and quite ironically in urban India. I was surprised the other day, when waiting at a railway crossing on my bike, I saw this dude who took out his swanky Nokia N series phone with all its gizmos, and turned on the speaker for everyone waiting at the crossing to enjoy the latest Bollywood number on one of the FM channels. And surprisingly, nobody seemed to give too much importance to it, as though it was nothing different. If the same guy did that 10 years ago, playing some blockbuster number on his portable radio, I’m sure he might have gathered enough incredulous looks to last a lifetime.
What is even more interesting is that the phone companies are encashing on this idea. I was watching this TV advertisement of Vodafone which showed a man carrying this blast from the past sort of a radio and listening to songs. Smart ad I must say, and done very creatively. I’m sure it manages to get the point across that vodafone is pitching for a radio service on its mobile network, a lot faster than Airtel’s advertisements which showed couples playing songs as ringtones.
Anycase, back to the topic of the post, please welcome the comeback kid, in a lot more snazzier form – the radio !

Ironic ?

Before you think that I am writing about Alanis’ song, let me clarify – no. I was watching the India Business Report on BBC last weekend, and was struck by the irony of two stories. Two different stories, and both of them seem to potray a starkly different view of the rural India.
The story 1 was on the plight of the farmers in rural Karnataka, and how they are being neglected in terms of public spending. The farmers decided to create their own political party to contest the upcoming elections for the Karnataka assembly – a move resultant of the sheer fancy for the neon lights of the silicon valley of India and not looking at rural development (reminiscent of the similarity of how N. Chandrababu Naidu, the ex-CM of AP concentrated on the development of Cyberabad, while ignoring the country side). The story featured a grape farmer who was complaining about the apathy of the officials in trying to help him to increase yield of his crop.
Cut to story 2, and it is about rural Maharashtra, wherein Maruti (the auto manufacturer) is trying to capture the rural market in trying to sell its cars. The presenter talked about how the returns on the crops could easily get the farmers a new car. Now if Maharashtra were as poor as what is reported in the media, with farmer suicides, how is it that Maruti is able to sell cars there. A spokesperson of Maruti commented that they were able to sell over 30,000 cars this year, and were looking to target all the villages of the country.
Not sounding too cynical, how is it possible that in one state there are farmers who are able to buy cars, and in another state, the farmers have no choice but to create a party to protect their interests ? Isn’t it ironic ? As an aside, do check out the wikpedia entry for the song, which seems to discuss the various linguistic nitty gritties !