The government will release a draft policy on retail trade in 10 days as it seeks to quickly implement the promises made in the election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In a meeting with key retail associations and trade bodies on Tuesday, Ramesh Abhishek, secretary of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), said the policy would address central and state-level issues faced by retailers and would look at promoting fair and honest trade.
The DPIIT is the new nodal agency for domestic trade (including offline and online retail) after the subject was shifted from the consumer affairs ministry in February. For months, offline retailers and traders have been lobbying hard for a national retail policy to protect their business from the growing influx of e-commerce.
The final policy on retail trade is likely to be out in September after views of all stakeholders are taken into account, a retail industry official privy to developments said.
Participants in Tuesday’s meeting included the Retailers Association of India (RAI), the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry among others.
At the meeting, both the RAI and the CAIT asked that laws be suitably modified to enable ease of doing business for retailers, especially the issue of multiple permits and licences needed for running retail establishments in the country. Almost 28 different licences and permits, said industry officials, are required to set up a retail business in the country, since it remains a state subject.
The draft national retail policy is expected to address this issue head-on, said industry sources, as this remains a key pain point for most retailers.
The RAI also asked that retail be included in the development plan of cities so that retailers could be given proper infrastructure, logistics and warehouse support. The CAIT, meanwhile, said traders required easy access to finance so that they could focus on growing their business.
“Since the government is keen to promote digital payments, bank charges on card payment transactions should be subsidised to promote their use at retail outlets. We have also suggested that a provision be made for a trade commissioner and for the formation of trade tribunals in each state to resolve disputes between traders,” the CAIT’s National Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said.
The CAIT also said there was a need to modernise retail trade and that skill development of traders should find a place in the policy.