Looking for rent

Written by Rajat Arora | Updated: Sep 23 2012, 07:54am hrs
With the government throwing open multi-brand retail to foreign direct investment (FDI) small store owners should be a worried lot. But many of the capitals small shopkeepers are hoping to turn adversity into an opportunity: they may shut shop but are banking on high rents for their premises. Several cloth merchants and kirana store owners doing business in prime locations in New Delhi arent averse to the idea of simply living off the rent.

Since space is in short supplytheres hardly any room left in the posh Khan Market for instanceareas like Meher Chand market, located just half a kilometre away from Khan Market, in the heart of the national capital, could attract big foreign retailers. Already the place boasts some fashionable Italian and French restaurants because smaller shopkeepers have started renting out their premises. Earnings from rents have turned around the lives of small time shopkeepers, who now prefer renting out their shops to big brands, says AK Saluja, president of Meher Chand Market. We have plenty of parking space on both sides of the road which helps, he adds. Rentals in Meher Chand are reported to be about R450 per sq ft per month compared with an estimated R1,800 per sq ft per month in Khan Market. Agrees Sanjeev Mehra, president, Khan Market traders association, Shop owners feel it is better to rent out shops to big format stores rather than run them.

Indeed, Khan Market wore a completely new look after Lee Cooper opened shop in 1996 and other brands followed. From a middle class market with kirana and grocery shops, the market is now among the most expensive with rents at R1,800 per sq ft.

However, foreign retailers might find that they are not able to rent space in other parts of the capital. There are already a host of malls and shopping complexes in South Delhi areas of Saket and Vasant Kunj. Even the neighbouring Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and municipal corporation markets have seen rentals shoot up by as much as 100% in the last couple of years.

There are traders though who are anxious about foreign retailers coming in to India. Praveen Khandelwal of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) feels the government should help small retailers giving quick clearances and also bank loans. Not all shopkeepers may benefit from rents, he says.