Hyderabad: For long, consumers have cried foul against multiplexes for the high prices of the food and beverages they sell. They have called it "extortion".
However, is this outrage fair? Academics and economists say that moves to curtail multiplexes from operating as they like is “anti-business”, an attitude that is bad for the economy on the whole.
It may be noted that a Bombay High Court in 2018 allowed moviegoers in Maharashtra to carry their own food and water. A month ago, a city-based activist filed a case in the Telangana High Court, hoping for a similar order. Experts cautioned against high-handed restrictions against businesses, thereby creating a hostile atmosphere for them.
On a related note, in a reply to an RTI query filed by a city-based activist, the Hyderabad police said consumers couldn’t be restricted from bringing their own water bottles inside multiplexes. Many people have hailed this pronouncement.
Dr J. Narasimha Rao, head of the department of economics at Osmania University, noted that restrictions would hurt the multiplex owners. “If one thinks from the business owner’s perspective, he would stand to lose revenue from food sales. This would ultimately force him to pay lower wages to his employees. This process can go on to a stage when the theatre business is no longer profitable to him. This will be bad for a lot of people,” he said.
However, one needs to also think about the consumer, who deserves quality and affordable goods and services. “This contradiction between consumers and businesses is a paradox. A balance has to be reached. Market forces can be left to decide this balance,” Dr Rao said.
Mr Sudhakar Rao, an academic and director, branding, at ICFAI Business School, said, “In a free market environment, there should always be options for both the customer and seller. If the quality of food inside a multiplex is good, customers would automatically buy from there. On the other hand, if customers are compelled to buy from the multiplex, it is not fair. However, the key point here is quality of the product. Hence, a business driven by this quality, instead of external restrictions, will be well-founded.”
Mr Sudhakar felt this was an opportunity for multiplexes to come up with food options that are attractive enough for moviegoers to not carry their own food.
Dr Narasimha Rao too said blanket government restrictions might not be prudent for the business environment.
“There must be solutions that take into consideration both sides of the coin — consumers and businesses. Favour-ing just one side would be foolhardy,” he said.
“Also, if a service or good is really essential, a case could be made for the government subsidising its cost. Whether such a solution is applicable to this case is debatable, but a discussion won’t hurt,” Mr Narasimha Rao added....