The answer seems so, particularly after seeing atleast two petrol pumps in the heart of the city closing down and converting or planning to utilise the real estate for other commerical purposes.
The petrol pump opposite to the Dass Community Centre on the Cathedral Road has been closed down. The other one is at Alwar Thirunagar just diagonally opposite to the Mega Mart showroom. Both are located at prime locations on a main road in the city (don't kick me when I say Alwar thirunagar is a prime location..guys wake up Chennai is not Mylapore, T Nagar and Nungambakkam alone!!!).
My knowledge on the petrol retailing business is very limited. I have done some accounting and tax related work during my CA articleship training. I know that for every kilo litre of petrol, diesel sold, the Oil Marketing Companies (BPCL, HPCL etc) gives these petrol pumps commission. In addition to that, they also enjoy credit with this companies atleast for a weeks's time. Remember, petrol/diesel is cash business (atleast 95% of the sales) and they enjoy the float. In addition to that there is wide-spread adulteration of petrol and diesel (common form of adulteration is to mix Kerosene, I was told) and under-selling on quantity. Also whenever you have a price hike, you hoard the entire quantity of stock overnight and sell it the next day morning to make a good tidy sum. But that is not a major portion since Indian fuel prices are changed very rarely. But in spite of all these money making avenues, many of the petrol pumps are being closed.
The other possible reason I can think of is that the land on which these petrol pumps operate or leased/rented lands and the owner refuses to renew the lease once it expires. The owners may think that by selling the land or by doing joint development they may be able to make more money than just renting it out to a petrol pump.
Do you know of any other reasons? Please post your comments.