Meet Kumar Rajagopalan, the man behind Indian retailers’ fight against e-commerce companies

Until two years ago, Retailers Association of India (RAI) acted like any other industry body, organising retail events and training programmes for the retailers in India. However, today, it has evolved into an association taking the rapidly growing e-commerce industry heads on.

Also read: India’s retailers refuse to be mute spectators as Amazon, Paytm and Flipkart allegedly violate the online marketplace model

What inspired the change, one might ask, other than the need to raise a voice against the trend that was eating a major portion of their jobs?

The answer is, RAI’s CEO Kumar Rajagopalan.

It was the autumn of 2014 when Indian e-commerce giants, the likes of Flipkart and Amazon with billions of dollars in their hidden pockets, started to offer heavy, almost unbelievable discounts, in their Diwali sales. This led to sale worth millions of dollars within a matter of few days, because honestly, who would not like discounts? However, there were some people marred by these sales, the brick-and-mortar retailers, who kept waiting for people to come and shop during the festive season, like always.

The blow to their jobs was such that they had to come together to find a solution to this new, but huge, problem that had raised its head.

It was this fight between traditional retailers and e-commerce companies that brought Rajagopalan, a trained CA, into the limelight, says ET.
Having worked at Shoppers Stop and IBM, Rajagopalan paved way for retailers’ united fight against e-commerce, turning the once sleepy RAI into one of India’s most active lobby groups. This activism forced the centre to eventually make rules, barring e-commerce companies from offering deep discounts and influencing retail prices directly or indirectly.

"He comes from the retail industry, so he has a good understanding of retail and is using his knowledge to build the last mile connect with the bureaucracy and with various implementing agencies of the government," Future Group director Rakesh Biyani says about Rajagopalan.

"The most important thing is that we are supporting modernisation of retail to help the industry to the next level of growth," Rajagopalan said. "Biggest thing is to make the industry healthy as the sector is still not profitable at a total level," he concludes.

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