By Japan K Pathak
Busy activities here at Aditya Birla Group’s retail store ‘More’ in Ahmedabad’s Dharnidhar area. There are already overflowing visitors inside, and therefore the security men are instructing other people to form queue to enter inside. The people are also ready to cooperate. They form queue and wait for their chance to enter the store. The reason is that the store is offering 30 to 50% discount on almost all products because the Aditya Birla Group has taken a decision to wind it up.
Yes, after Subhiksha had to wind up 50 stores in Ahmedabad and Reliance Retail also scaled down its hypermarket on the SG Highway, after 6ten closed its stores and Vishal supermarket had to wind up its huge Law Garden premises, after Dev Status mall was closed to get converted into a luxurious flat scheme, the next is Aditya Birla Group’s ‘More’ stores which are likely to be closed this month.
The CEO of group’s Supermarkets decision Thomas Verghese confirming the plan says the loss-making stores of ‘More’ would be closed in whole country, not only in Gujarat in next some time.
Aditya Birla Retail at its peak, ran 36 stores in Gujarat. However after gradual closure of some loss making stores in recent past, the company had only 10 stores functioning in the state. Out of 16 stores that were launched in Ahmedabad, only five to six are operational presently, and they are likely to be closed this month only.
Back to ground zero at Dharnidhar in Ahmedabad, the customers hit by price rise are happily buying things at discount rates here. Sugar which is otherwise available at a cost of 38 Rs kg is available here at Rs 32. Packed bags of Mung and Cumin are sold at half price. Some buyers are coming from far areas, thanks to BRTS bus-stop nearby. About 50% shelves of this ‘More’ store are now empty. Due to high demand of discounted items here, the group has dumped products from other branches also for speedy sell.
The youths working in this store told Gujaratmoney that this particular branch of ‘More’ was profitable, but as the group decided to wind up whole business in the city, this store too faced closure. They complained that though they offered wide range of different products, most of the people were visiting the store to buy vegetables only. At time, the management felt that their business was actually not about selling just vegetables!
Some other employees briefed GujaratMoney that rental cost, man power cost, AC bill etc was in-total a huge burden. On the other side business was not that lucrative.
When we from GujaratMoney personally visited the store, we felt that the store was not being run with heart and certainly not with mind. Dharnidhar is pure Jain, Baniya and Brahmin dominated area. Here non-veg is a taboo. Not only eating non-veg is unacceptable but even presence of non-veg irritate the locals. You can not find a single non-veg product in about three-four square kilometer of area in this locality. But the ‘More’ store was catering range of non-veg products. I saw Chicken Masalla, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka mix etc completely unsalable packs on shelves. Another point is that while traditional stores in Dharnidhar area are smaller, open(so no AC and natural light), controlled by one or two persons(one owner and one servant) and product specific(focused), the ‘More’ store is a closed one(lights and AC bringing heavy bill), employing several people(around 10 to 12) and offering range of products(defocused, some of the products not worth selling and eating dust on shelves).
A common store owner(of course a rival) in Dharnidhar area is happy with More’s retreat. One of the store owners in same locality Shri Gopalbhai Gandhi says, ” the mall and retail chain culture is temporary, we are here to serve you permanently.” Another happy person is a poor hawker who sells vegetables on his moving push cart by visiting streets. One such vegetable vendor Karsan Devipujak tells GujaratMoney,”It is Devi Mata(holly goddess)’s wish to protect us against this retail invasion. We are here, and you would see they all will have to close their stores. We have defeated Birla.”
However local women of Dharnidhar locality are not happy with More’s exit. “This was a good place to buy vegetables. Also a bag of milk was 50 paisa cheaper. This store should be replaced by similar store. This area needs such store. It is unfortunate that though this particular branch is doing good business, the group has decided to close it,” one of the local women, Mamtaben Shah a frequent visitor to this store told GujaratMoney.