I have just been down my local Sainsbury’s – here in the London suburbs – and was distressed to see that it was full of shoppers. This distress is, of course, entirely hypocritical. I am one of those shoppers. Still, I cannot help feeling bad about the local corner-store, a few doors down. It is a run by a friendly and hard-working family of Indian immigrants. And I know their trade has suffered badly since Sainsbury’s opened up a mini-mart, six months ago.
The whole experience reminded me of the debate they were having in India itself, when I was there, earlier this week. The government of Manmohan Singh has just announced its plans to allow foreign supermarkets, such as Walmart and Tesco, to open up in India. But the scheme has provoked big protests, from those who say that small shopkeepers will be crushed.