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Lulu Mall Midnight Sale | Kerala’s consumerist culture is speaking. Is the State listening?

Though the amendments in the Kerala Shops & Establishment Act permit 24X7 shopping, the ecosystem has not evolved due to the lack of transport options and support from the State. Here, the market is trying to find its own feet by experimenting with midnight sales 

Media reports on the rush towards the biggest malls in Kerala for midnight discount sales is not surprising to those who follow Kerala’s consumption-based economy. Kerala was exposed to globalisation much before many other states in India announced its arrival on the scene.

Right from the mid-80s, the average Malayalee has been exposed to consumerism and the high-quality products in the international market, which was restricted in India due to high import tariffs then. Every time an NRI relative or a friend came back to Kerala for vacation, talk about the electronic items, perfumes, and clothes they stuffed the suitcases was standard conversation openers/ice breakers.

Additionally, the remittance economy helped in building houses and shopping complexes that grew across Kerala over the decades. Riyals, dinars and dollars comforted the economy, driving Kerala into one of the most consumerist states in India. The dominance of the service sector in the GSDP emerged as a result of it.

However, the influential factors were the elements in the market economy, contrary to the ease of doing business claims of the successive governments in power in Kerala. The market elements find ways to meet the demands of the consumer classes.

Though consumerism plays a significant role in sustaining the economy, this was not celebrated in traditional literature and in conventional politics. The changing nature of society with the emergence of the middle class was attributed more to the Kerala model of development, than the migration and the remittance that brought comfort to the distressed job market and the state’s economy.

Kerala’s political economy is focused on socialism and welfare policies, which enjoys a consensus among the political parties in the state. Though these policies were given an extended life by the highly-urbanising Kerala, the narrative was more about the role of a paternal state by the ruling class. Over the last three decades, Kerala emerged as an urban continuum.

Government-provided public goods and utilities in Kerala are at a highly-discounted price as the competition among the political parties to offer the maximum welfare does not reflect the state of the government’s fiscal health. The universality of the welfare schemes and the widening of their scope by successive governments limit the debates of the targeted beneficiaries, and sound economic principles.

The current generation no longer favourably looks at rationing of provisions like the generation of their parents or grandparents. Now, the exposure of the millennials and the alpha generation is not limited to that of the gulf countries of their parents, but is accentuated by the Internet penetration and the usage of smart devices.

Yet, there is a class conflict of narratives here — ‘of welfare, by welfare, and being on welfare’ enjoyed by the three generations of the current era. While the eldest generation believes that the State can do wonders for its citizens, the youngest believes that State policies are the speed breakers on their road to becoming rich. For the generation sandwiched in between, there is only a thin line demarcating welfare policies from market consumerism; it is all about how much reduction is announced on the maximum retail price by the market.

Coming back to the July 7 midnight sale, the more prominent contributing factor could be the discounts. Though the amendments in the Kerala Shops & Establishment Act permit 24X7 shopping, the ecosystem has not evolved due to the lack of transport options and support from the State. Here, the market is trying to find its own feet by experimenting with midnight sales.

While the e-tailers are opposed by the traditional retailers for the discount sales, the big malls have started it. Earlier, there was strong opposition to the organised retail chains for their discounted price practices. Still, it has withered away with the launch of more stores and outlets by organised retailers, and formal retailing has matured over the last decade. With the increase in GST collection, one can assume that the market is getting more formalised and structured.

With access to the brands and malls even in the interiors of the state, the message from the consumers is that they have disposable income, and they expect the markets to reciprocate their sentiments. The political news here could be that Kerala is changing, and there could be a generational shift in their preference and expectations in the next decade.

Dhanuraj is Chairman at the Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi. Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research. 

Image Source: Screengrab from video posted on Instagram by ajil.mv

This article was published in Money Control on July 21, 2022. Click here to read

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Dr D Dhanuraj is the Chairman and Managing Trustee of CPPR. He holds a PhD in Science & Humanities (Anna University), MSc Physics (Mahatma Gandhi University) and MA Political Science (Madras Christian College). He also holds a Post Graduate Executive Diploma in International Business from Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai, and has undergone training by TTMBA of Atlas USA, IAF Germany, FEE USA, etc. His core areas of expertise are in urbanisation, urban transport & infrastructure, education, health, livelihood, law, and election analysis. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @dhanuraj

D. Dhanuraj
D. Dhanuraj
Dr D Dhanuraj is the Chairman and Managing Trustee of CPPR. He holds a PhD in Science & Humanities (Anna University), MSc Physics (Mahatma Gandhi University) and MA Political Science (Madras Christian College). He also holds a Post Graduate Executive Diploma in International Business from Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai, and has undergone training by TTMBA of Atlas USA, IAF Germany, FEE USA, etc. His core areas of expertise are in urbanisation, urban transport & infrastructure, education, health, livelihood, law, and election analysis. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @dhanuraj

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