April 4, 2007

The ‘flat world’ effect

The Hindu carries a revealing story on Bangalore fruit marts where California grapes, Chinese pears and Washington apples compete for shelf space with desi varieties. This, presumably, is the ‘Flat World’ phenomenon to which Thomas Friedman and Nandan Nilekani refer when they talk of leveling the playing field. I get a few other messages from The Hindu story that deserved a byline of the reporter who did it.

1)Bangaloreans, by and large, prefer desi fruits because of the price advantage.
2)There is no appreciable price difference between apples from Shimla (Rs.90) and the ones imported from the US (Rs.100). Which, I reckon, means that transportation costs of sending apple from Shimla is nearly as much as the expenses in air-freighting it from Washington. The message here is that the produce from Shimla can do better, sales-wise, in Bangalore with a streamlined transport, and better packaging and cold storage facilities.
3)I wonder if the ‘playing field’ has been 'leveled' enough, for apples from Shimla and organges from Coorg to find their way to the fruit marts in Boston, Brisbane and Bejing.
4)There is a sting in the tail of the media story. It refers to a Basvanagudi fruit stall owner who flogs desi apples with stickers saying, ‘From USA’. A 'flat world' side-effect?

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