Friday, 28 December 2012

Coffee is bad

What does Ramamritham have against coffee ? I would have thought the caricature of Ramaritham included a cup of coffee and The Hindu. Yet here's this venerable gentleman having an angst against coffee . Why ?

I am referring to IKEA's application to open retail stores across India. You may recall that the move to allow foreign owned retailers to set up shop in India is a recent one (Didi notwithstanding).  IKEA has been one of the first to submit their proposal, willing to bring it no less than Rs 10,000 crores of investment. You would have thought that they would be welcomed with open arms  - it is difficult to see boxed furniture being a threat to national sovereignty. But what they got was not a red carpet - instead they were treated with the full attention of Ramamritham. (in the guise of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board - FIPB)

I am no fan of IKEA stores. If you've been to one, they are all predictably the same format. You are forced to walk along one km of winding corridors that entirely destroy your sense of direction. You have to gaze at their full force of merchandise even if you want to buy a safety pin. After all those wanderings you are dying to sit down and rest your aching legs. Dutifully at the end of the trail you can buy a cup of coffee. Their format world over is the same.

Its the cup of coffee that has aroused Ramamritham's ire. Believe it or not, Ramamritham has turned down IKEA's application saying that they could not have a coffee shop - it appears that would become multi brand retail as the coffee is not IKEA branded coffee and hence would fall foul of the rules. Never mind the Rs 10,000 crores investment. FIPB is disallowing the proposal objecting to the coffee shop.

Finally the Commerce Minister had to intervene and suggest to Ramamritham that this is utterly nonsensical. He has asked IKEA to submit their proposal again and has promised them that he is partial to coffee.

Long long ago, when P Chidambaram was still a starry eyed reformer , he summoned a character called the Controller of Imports and Exports ( a terror those days) and asked him what he did. The worthy launched an impassioned plea as to how important and onerous his role was. PC's riposte was that he could perhaps understand that he had a role to play regarding imports, but pray, what was he doing trying to control exports ?? Within a few months he simply abolished the post.

I suggest he does a similar hatchet job on the FIPB. They perform no useful role. Open up investment in every sector barring maybe defence (even there there are arguments to  opening up for investment). Remember opening up for foreign investment does not mean that they can violate the law of the land. That provides the country ample protection against misbehaviour.

The only way to deal with nonsensical behaviour of objecting to the coffee shop is to abolish Ramamritham entirely.  Can Anand Sharma, the Commerce Minister, take a leaf out of his old predecessor and abolish the FIPB ?

PS :Newcomers to this blog who may not have been introduced to Ramamritham may get acquainted here.

14 comments:

Appu said...

Aren't there are instances where export too needs to be controlled?(or being controlled?)
Oh BTW, the book in progress is Wal-Mart. if God willing, it will reach the stores very soon :)

Ramesh said...

@zeno - Yes, exports are controlled, but by government order - there is a small negative list which you cannot export. But there is no babu sitting to give you a licence every time you want to export.

Aha - from Steve Jobs to Kamasutra to Walmart - that's a pretty impressive range .....

Deepa said...

***raised my hand** Firstly, IKEA happens to be one of my fav stores. And my home is filled with Ikea stuff. The food is delicious (especially the spinach crepe), coffee is ok too! Although, I have my reservations about Indians accepting the concept with open arms! Personally, I think the furniture is not indian weather and children proof, so Mr. Ramamritham should just let the guys try their luck. But then he would be jobless and thats not good in country of thousands of Ramamrithams. And then we wonder why the world doesn't take Indians seriously.

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - You are probably right - boxed furniture may or may not sell and let the consumer decide. How to make Ramamritham realise how ridiculous he is - he's become a laughing stock in Indian press for refusing to let IKEA to set up a cafe in their store.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

@Ramesh: I am just submitting my application to the FIPB to convert my payment system to a multi-bank payment system. I will keep your readers informed of how this goes. Having said that, the person I spoke with in the Ministry of Commerce turned out to be extremely helpful. Watch this space.

Let me also wish the readers of your blog a wonderful 2013.

Ramesh said...

@Ravi - Oh Ramamritham is actually a very nice fellow. He is bright, has high values, etc etc. Its just that he is a big blocker to anything positive happening.

Vishal said...

Abolish Ramamritham? Who wants the positive changes? Ramamritham, certainly not. In this pervasive atmosphere of money laundering, they are happy watching their bank accounts swell exorbitantly.

This act though sounds more stupid than anything else.

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - Actually most Ramamrithams are not corrupt. They are just obstructionists !

Shachi said...

I was talking to my parents about Ikea last weekend......they also felt it wont' work in the Indian market but they need to try.

And during the conversation, I had a business idea of opening a contractor shop which does delivery and assembly of Ikea furniture :) - not everyone has spacious vehicles to haul it, and the tools at home or the expertise to assemble/customize it and I'm sure such shops can mint money in the Indian market.

Ramesh said...

@Shachi - Its a sure shot business idea. IKEA does outsource this activity and its a good business to run. See, business runs in your blood :)

sriram khe said...

I feel like the typical student in class discussions who feels that others have already expressed the comments I would have made ;)

I don't understand how big box stores fit in India's context. Here in the US, in the sprawled out cities and the prevalent use of personal vehicles, the box stores work well. (Quite a few communities are opposed to the box stores, but that calls for a different discussion.) In India, ...????

Ramesh said...

@sriram - Oh it will be adapted to the Indian context. There will be a delivery service and quality cheap furniture is still an issue in India. And for some time there will be a "snob" value to boast of IKEA furniture - however curious that might be.

Reflections said...

Informative without a doubt, the bonus is the humour;-D.
I am no fan of IKEA stores. If you've been to one, they are all predictably the same format. You are forced to walk along one km of winding corridors that entirely destroy your sense of direction. You have to gaze at their full force of merchandise even if you want to buy a safety pin. After all those wanderings you are dying to sit down and rest your aching legs. Dutifully at the end of the trail you can buy a cup of coffee. Their format world over is the same."
Laughed out aloud at this...oh sooo true. We buy softees at the end[mainly to placate the kids];-D

Ramesh said...

@Reflections - Softee for the kids or the madam ?? :)

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