With Future Retail signed up as its master franchise, the 7-Eleven convenience store chain will open its iconic shops in many Indian cities this year. Unlike in almost all the 18 other countries where it is “always close, but never closed”, it won’t be able to operate round the clock in India. As Kishore Biyani says, “We will be open 24 hours wherever we can.”
That is because India ignores and often looks down on its night-time economy. Mention the phrase and the first thing that comes to mostpeople’s mind is not just nightlife, but the seedy side of it, involving dance bars, prostitution, drunken driving, gang fights and other crime. Police commissioners will refuse permission for retail establishments to stay open late because of “law and order” problems, some communityleaders will complain of the evils that go with nocturnal activities and civic groups will protest noise, traffic and rowdyism. In most cities, after-dark economic activity starts slowing down at 10pm, though restaurants and bars in a few big cities remain open until 1.30am.