UPSC GS 3 Notes: FDI In Retail

FDI in retail in India has always been a contentious issue. The government has been progressively liberalising the retail sector in India for foreign direct investment. The last major move came in 2012 when 100% FDI was allowed in single-brand retail. In this article, we discuss the issue of FDI in retail in India and the advantages and disadvantages of the same. We also talk about how the Indian economy is affected by the liberalisation in the government’s FDI policy.

This is an important topic for the IAS Exam and questions based on the same may be asked in the GS 3 paper of the UPSC Mains.

FDI in Retail Background

The Indian retail market is said to be worth USD 600 billion. It comes in the top-five retail markets worldwide by economic value. It is also one of the fastest-growing markets with a surging population of more than a billion people. The retail market is expected to grow tremendously. The total consumption expenditure is estimated to reach about USD 3600 billion by 2020. The retail market is estimated to have reached USD 1.1 trillion by 2020. Online retail sales are also estimated to grow at a rate of more than 30%.

In terms of economy, retail is one of the pillars of the Indian economy with the sector contributing to about 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In this sector, the organised sector is merely 9% and the unorganised sector dominates. The maximum number of retailers operate out of less than 500 sq. feet of retail space. The unorganised retail sector also absorbs about 7% of the labour force in India.

The central government has approved 100% FDI in single-brand retail and 51% FDI in multi-brand retail.

To know in detail about Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for the upcoming Civil Services exam, candidates can visit the linked article.

FDI Inflows in India 2020-21

Given below is the data for the FDI inflows in India between July 2020 to September 2020:

FDI Inflows during the Second Quarter of Financial Year 2020-21 (July to September 2020)
Total FDI Inflows into India (Equity inflows + ‘Re-invested earnings’ + ‘Other capital’) (as per RBI’s Monthly bulletins) US$ 28,102 Million
FDI Equity Inflows Rs. 174,793 Crore US$ 23,441 Million

Given below are the States/Union Territories attracting the highest FDI Equity Inflows in India for 2019-20 and 2020-21:

State/UT 2019-20 (October –March) 2020-21 (April – September) Cumulative Inflows (October 2019 – September 2020) % to total Inflows (in terms of US$)
Gujarat 18,964






Maharashtra 52,073






Karnataka 30,746






Delhi 28,487






Jharkhand 13,208







(Source: DIPP Official Website)

Organised and unorganised retail

Unorganised retail, which forms the bulk of the retail industry in India, is composed of local Kirana stores, owner-managed single general stores, beedi/pan shops, convenience stores, hawkers and pavement vendors, etc. Organised sector comprises of corporate-backed retail chains, supermarkets, and department stores that can sell only under a license and are liable to huge volumes of sales and taxes.

Aspirants must also refer to the following articles for UPSC preparation:

FDI in retail advantages and disadvantages

There are pros and cons of extending FDI into the retail space in India. Whenever there is a policy liberalisation about FDI in retail, activists are up in arms on both sides of the issue. Both the advantages and disadvantages are discussed below.

FDI in retail – Advantages and benefits

  • Growth in the economy – when foreign companies come in, new infrastructure will be built. Sectors like real estate and banking will see growth. Also, MNCs will pay a lot of taxes to the Indian government which again can be used to build infrastructure.
  • Employment generation – FDI in retail will create a lot of jobs in the organised retail sector.
  • The benefit to farmers – it will benefit farmers and producers by procuring produce from them directly and thus, cutting down on intermediaries. The farmers’ margins will improve.
  • In the unorganised sector, there is a huge wastage, running to the tune of 40% in the case of vegetables and fruits. Big retail chains can reduce this wastage by investing in supply chains and adequate storage facilities.
  • Foreign companies can bring in better technology, management best practices, and more learnings for Indian players.
  • Push to productivity – currently, Indian production in agriculture and food is very low. FDI in retail will give a much-needed fillip to infrastructure in agriculture and farming practices.
  • Benefits for consumers – FDI in retail implies low prices and better and more variety of products for consumers to choose from. They will also get access to international brands.
  • Induce competition – it will induce competition in the market benefitting both consumers and producers.

FDI in retail – Disadvantages, and apprehensions

  • FDI may drain out the country’s revenue share to foreign countries which can harm the nation’s overall economy.
  • The domestic retail players might not be able to withstand the competition from MNCs and may be wiped out from the market or at least absorbed by the bigger players.
  • Prices may be brought down initially, but once the MNCs get a stronghold in the market, they can cause price rise and may also form cartels harming the consumers.
  • Farmers, who may benefit initially, may also be at the mercy of these bigger retailers after they get a strong share of the market.
  • The predatory pricing policies of these big retailers will harm small and medium players in the sector.

Read on to know more about the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) at the linked article.

FDI in retail is an important concept for UPSC economy and polity sections. It can also feature an essay topic in the IAS mains exam. Students must have a basic understanding of the topic and also be updated on the latest policy liberalisations and changes that the government brings in.

FAQ about FDI in retail

Is FDI in retail goods allowed in India?

As per the latest policy issued by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) is allowed in case of single brand retail, and duty-free shops through automatic route.

Why FDI in retail is good for India, what are its benefits?

The few benefits of FDI in retail industry are: advance employment, organized retail stores, availability of quality products at a better and cheaper price, increased market growth and further expansion.

For more articles on important concepts for the IAS exam and updates on UPSC’s current affairs, please visit BYJU’S Free IAS Prep regularly.

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