Over the years, due to the exposure to various foreign markets, Pakistani consumers have developed a new sense of awareness. This is particularly true of expatriates based in Gulf. The consumers at home also know now they have a wider array of local and multinational products to choose from. The main reason for this awareness is the presence of renowned brands of products/services from abroad which have found a huge market in Pakistan via franchise partnerships with the local firms. One such example happens to be the multinational chain of retail stores by the name Makro which has a large number of stores in different parts of Pakistani cities. The store has mass appeal with the local consumers due to its vast set-up, excellent prices, impressive ambience and strategic placements. Its branch at Saddar Karachi has been an instant hit with the local community. Recently, though, it came under a cloud after an article printed in the press on 14-6-2009 said the land leased to Makro Saddar branch was illegally commercialized. The article said the land belonged to the city and was reserved for the construction of a playground/park and, thus, its commercialization and subsequent lease via the Army Welfare Trust (AWT) to any business entity was illegal. This article was brought into notice of the relevant authorities and this resulted in a cancellation of the land lease to Makro. In a verdict of the court, Makro was given three months time period to vacate the premises and return the property to its original condition. The facts that Makro had obtained an NOC from the local administration and its building plans were approved by the Cantonment Board were not taken into consideration here. Even the petition filed by Makro and AWT in the court was disregarded. The demolition of Makro branch would result in major losses for the retail chain as well as the community here. This branch of the store has about 350 employees and they are mostly from the local vicinity. Along with salaries, the store also provides them with other essential benefits like bonuses, health insurance and access to free medical clinics for families every Sunday. Last but not the least; the branch is also a source of large amount of revenue to the government in the form of duties and taxes. The stores demolition would result in the employees getting laid off and the community losing an excellent shopping venue. As a gesture of showing that they are a socially responsible corporate entity, Makro has offered to convert an adjoining plot in the locality called the Tanki Ground into a park/playground for the local community. They are prepared to completely finance the project offering to spend Rs. 40 million on creating excellent facilities like grounds for cricket and football and volley ball courts. They had also done a considerable bit in philanthropy for the local community by renovating a local school and a mosque here. The Tanki Ground proposal makes a lot of sense since the plot is vacant and is frequented by drug addicts and other such elements. Besides, its also being used as a garbage dump despite a water reservoir running through it. Makros offer should provide food for thought to all citizens of the area. -A. SAEED FAROOQI, Karachi, February 22.