The French are Coming. Hurrah!

By Henry James

The Bali Times


CANGGU, Bali ~ While I am neither for nor against the arrival of large retailing groups to Bali, I have however been made aware of the current unrest regarding the imminent arrival of the French company Carrefour.

For too long, the frailties of competing businesses in Bali have been quick to surface whenever it seems their survival is under threat, and in many instances this is justified. But I disagree with most of the concerns being directed towards Carrefour, the new company in town, as I see more plusses here than negatives. 

The opening this month in Bali of the giant retailer, the world leader in hypermarkets, the No. 1 hypermarket chain in Indonesia, (there are 12 stores here) and the third-largest hard discounter in the world, is being met here with mixed feelings both from a competitive standpoint and from those with strong opinions about the building’s design.

Granted, I have not been privileged to view the inside of the building, but I doubt that the interior will in any way differ from other stores of a similar ilk, and it is the aesthetics of the exterior, and not the interior, that concerns me. I agree with the opinions of those critics that are unhappy with the building’s design, and one has to wonder why a little more thought was not given to creating something that identified itself more with Balinese architecture than something as bland as this almost-completed structure.

The building’s design was presumably given local government approval, and this being the case, I think it a pity that the authorities were not a lot more forceful in insisting on something of a more traditional and imaginative nature than that of the ugly and sparsely disguised warehouse that is evident today.

The apparent opposition to this huge hypermarket from existing retailers, particularly from those in the immediate vicinity of Carrefour’s location, at the southern end of Jl. Sunset Road in Kuta, may be unwarranted, and while it could be argued that at a time when business in Bali is slow, some restraints could be placed on the arrival of such massive retail conglomerates as Carrefour, I consider the decision by Carrefour and other such companies to establish themselves here at this time, while clearly motivated by profit (and why not?) to be a huge vote of confidence in the future prosperity of the island.

It should therefore be welcomed rather than criticized by overly zealous competitors. After all, what are they concerned about? Could it be that the management of some of the established businesses are afraid that they will lose their staff to Carrefour, or perhaps be unable to improve their level of service to equal that of the high standard that Carrefour promises, and perhaps lose business to them?

The belief that competition is good for business has a peculiar way of turning out to be true, and I feel confident that given time, we will see this old adage confirmed here.

Any improvement in the level of service in and around the large stores in Bali could only be regarded as a plus, and I endorse Carrefour’s intention to implement these improved standards.

The current levels of customer service in Bali are appallingly low – if nonexistent. The high level of unemployment in and around Bali at the present time should not be disregarded either, and this store will do much to alleviate a problem that has been of concern to all those affected by unemployment, and in the process, improve the living standards of hundreds of people who have suffered greatly over the past few years.

With Carrefour’s commitment to the reduction of packaging weight, recycling and the elimination of substances of environmental risk, they are declaring this as a clear priority in their approach to responsible packaging, and if they do implement these objectives, they are about to give other Bali businesses a lesson on how to handle their own waste materials. Can this be bad for Bali? I think not.

The authorities will need to be vigilant, however, and ensure that all of Carrefour’s intentions are carried out, and that Bali as a whole learns from the exercise.

The local authorities must also encourage those businesses that are not already practicing recycling to embrace similar methods of waste controls to those of Carrefour.

There is a definite upside to the arrival of Carrefour in Bali, and while initially it may be a bitter pill to swallow for competing stores, I feel confident that if they simply get on with improving their own services, and not be concerned about a perceived threat to their business by new enterprises, their own profits may very well improve as well.

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