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In India, a nation of shopkeepers frets over retail reform

Published on Sep 20, 2012 10:41 AM

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Customers squeezing through the narrow aisles of Mr Sushant Goel's tiny grocery store in central Delhi need to be careful. Just brushing up against the rickety free-standing shelves packed with food and toiletries can cause them to wobble dangerously.

Mr Goel, 61, inherited the general store, or kirana, in Delhi Bengali Market from his father 23 years ago and is now slowly handing over the business to his sons. Like many kiranas, it is a business built on a reputation for reliability of service, one earned over generations.

But thousands of kirana owners like Mr Goel planned to close their shops on Thursday to protest against a government decision to allow in foreign supermarkets such as Wal-Mart.

They fear the move could lead to the destruction of the ubiquitous family-owned stores that occupy a central place in Indian daily life and help give the country the highest shop density in the world.

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