Reliance Fresh returns to Kolkata amidst police security

August 4th, 2008 - 6:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 4 (IANS) The Mukesh Ambani-owned food mart Reliance Fresh, which left West Bengal last year following stringent political resistance, has re-started business here under police security. Reliance Fresh opened three stores in the city - at New Town, Budge Budge and heritage park Swabhumi - quietly and without any fanfare Aug 1.

But employees at the Swabhumi store told IANS that they still feared resistance from Left parties.

“On Sunday afternoon, around 50 men armed with sticks came to protest outside the store. We had to pull the shutters down with customers inside for 20 minutes. This sudden protest triggered panic among the customers,” one employee said.

The situation came under control after the police reached the spot.

Incidentally, the store experienced the maximum footfall Sunday before the protesters assembled.

Forward Bloc, a Left Front partner is resisting the opening of food marts, forcing Reliance Fresh to fold up business in the state last year. The party says retail stores owned by big corporate houses would hamper the livelihood of vegetable sellers.

“Not only Reliance, all these retail food outlets are illegal and we are conveying the message to the state government,” the Forward Bloc-controlled state agricultural marketing board chairman Naren Chatterjee told IANS.

Reliance Fresh staff said the stores are presently stocking fruits but no raw vegetables. “But very shortly we will begin stocking vegetables also,” they said.

The 4,500 square feet Swabhumi store is also awaiting the launch of a non-vegetarian section adjacent to the main outlet very soon, the staff said.

The non-vegetarian section is named Delight, designed in a shop-in-shop format.

Reliance plans to open a few more stores in the coming months, including a hyper mart in Kolkata’s Bagha Jatin neighbourhood.

Reliance Fresh has tied up with Jayshree Tea and the Goodricke Group for a select range of packet teas.

The store stocks cereals, pulses, fruits, packed foods, frozen foods, cosmetics, toiletry, utensils and crockery among a host of daily use goods.

Last month, West Bengal’s communist government’s efforts to portray an industry-friendly image had received a jolt when small shopkeepers and hawkers demonstrated and stopped RPG Enterprise vice chairman Sanjiv Goenka from inaugurating a new mall of the group’s retail arm Spencer’s here.

But unlike Ambani, Goenka did not have to wait for a year to open the store; he successfully opened it after three days.

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