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Impacts of neoliberalisation on small-scale entrepreneurs: An empirical investigation of farmers and retailers in West Bengal, India

Ray, Nabati (2017) Impacts of neoliberalisation on small-scale entrepreneurs: An empirical investigation of farmers and retailers in West Bengal, India. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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India’s recent history of neoliberal economic expansion has encouraged large-scale foreign and domestic corporations to expand rapidly across the country. This neoliberal expansion has been seen in both the retail sector and the agricultural sector (impacting both urban and rural livelihoods respectively). Inevitably, such expansion has been controversial, evoking controversies around both socio-political and economic issues as the benefits of this development seem to be gained by the large corporations at the expense of small-scale indigenous livelihoods. This thesis provides an empirical study of the impacts of diverse neoliberal perspectives (multinational and home-grown) in both the agriculture and traditional retailing sectors. The chosen study area is the Indian regional state of West Bengal (WB) because of its individualistic political-economic history (i.e. a combination of communism and liberalism) against a backdrop of 34 years of continuous communist rule (1977-2011). In particular, the empirical focus is on the Bardhaman district (within WB) which has a thriving and diversified economy with expanding agricultural and industrial sectors. On the basis of empirical research, it is argued that the impacts of neoliberal expansion policies are many and varied. The main empirical work focuses first on the impact of the expansion of the corporate giant PepsiCo and its domination of the agriculture supply chain in Bardhaman. The research suggests that the inherent difficulties of the financial and marketing infrastructure in the local agricultural sector have weakened the chances of economic survival for small farmers against this growth of neoliberalism. It also explores how small farmers, despite promises of better financial deals through working with companies such as PepsiCo, are, in fact, caught between making deals with local moneylenders on the one hand and the consequences of the conditions of trading agreements with the large corporations on the other. These problems are not only financial: they are also social and psychological. The thesis also explores the growth of large corporations in the retail sector and discusses similar issues around survival for small-scale urban independent retailers. However, in this case, it is argued that the impacts on small traders has been more varied. The rise of the large corporations has exposed different sub-sectors of small-scale traditional retailing—mom-and-pop stores (known as kiranas) with legalised and permanent spaces, and street vendors often unlicensed and lacking fixed stalls—to the vulnerabilities of dispossession. This part of the research is conducted in the industrial city of Durgapur in Bardhaman district. It is argued that the kirana owners are exposed to the greatest difficulties due to customer loss caused by unequal competition with the corporate retailers. On the other hand, the street vendors, although also being involved in a day-to-day struggle to retain a living in the face of the changing retailscape of the city, seem to be thriving against the backcloth of neoliberal expansion. The resilience strategies of both groups of small -scale retailers will be explored in detail.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: neoliberalisation, corporatisation, small-scale livelihood, domestic neoliberalism, small farming, traditional retailing, street vending
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Geography (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mrs Nabati Ray
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2018 15:02
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2018 15:02
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19773

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