Let’s face the competition

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While many social activists have been shouting hoarse on the evils of globalisation and onslaught of giant Multi National Company (MNCs) on small retailers, some businessmen and their families are silently preparing to face the competition. Change is inevitable and nobody can stop the currents which have started rushing.  Instead of banging their heads against the walls and trying to stop the boulders of Walmart, McDonalds, KFC and other giants entering the field, local businesses have positively transformed their looks to woo local customers, despite their entry!

I am talking about the recent splurge of chain store concept in Bangalore.  Of course the chain store concept is nothing new.  We knew BATA, Carona, Foodworld, Nilgiris, Dasprakash and the Kamat Group of Hotels.  But now the concept has caught on by almost all sorts of businesses.  The most recent is the sugarcane juice centres called Cane Sugar or Cane Crush which have sprung up in all localities. These are very clean outlets selling sugarcane juice with different flavours like mint, lemon, chat, etc. What is appealing with these outlets is the hygienic method of extracting the juice (you cannot find a single fly inside these outlets) and the  reasonable rates at which it is sold.  Just Rs 10 per glass of juice! Uniformed employees man these outlets.  I understand these stores are run by different entrepreneurs. Whatever!  That’s not important.  The fact that some smart businessman thought of turning such a simple business into a hi-fi chain store business is really appreciable.

The Dharshani style of eateries is very unique to Bangalore and is a very useful contribution to the society, especially for the thousands of bachelors and floating population who can get quality food-stuff at reasonable rates in hygienic environs.  The best part of these eateries is the open kitchens, where we can see for ourselves how the items are cooked in a hygienic and methodical manner.  Based on this concept, a number of food-joints have come up around the city, many as chain outlets like the Adiga’s, Kamat, Shanthi Sagar and so many more.  All these outlets are crowded at all times.  Kamat hotels have mastered the art of serving various kinds of regional flavours and tastes like the Gujarati, Punjabi, North Karnataka, South Kanara and so on.  They have also started hygienic food-courts on highways with catchy names like Kamat Upachaar, Kamath Lokaruchi and so on.

I do not even know whether the management of all like-named outlets is common, but people have started using catchy brand names to woo the customers.  You can find Hot Chips outlets all over the city.  These outlets specialise in making fresh fried items like chips, murukku and other sweets and savouries.  Who said only attractive packages like the Lays help sell food-stuff?  When people can buy fresher food-stuff for more reasonable rates in more hygienic outlets, they ignore the packaging and decorating techniques.  The popular VB Bakery at VV Puram is one crowded bakery.  You have to wait in queues to buy varieties of bakery items, sweets, savouries and masalas.  In all probability, you may not get the items you waited for, if you are late!  So, they do not have time to even pack!  Hot pumpkin dumrot packets vanish from the stands in minutes!  This bakery have also opened a number of outlets in the city.

The small retailers not only have to be innovative but also find ways to fight the giant malls.  Not all can sustain but there are a few who can really stay.  For instance, the famous  Subbamma’s store in Gandhi Bazaar, will always have its loyal customers because you cannot get the kind of ready eatables, appalams and masalas that you get here in any of the malls.  People drive miles to get huri-galu, masala groundnuts and other tasty eatables from this small outlet, started by a simple woman Subbamma.

I remember how a man called ‘Thindi Maam’ (none of us knew his name) used to come to all branches and offices of Canara Bank to sell eatables like wafers, finger chips, kajjayas, murukku, chakli etc.  People used to thronged him the moment he entered and in no time, he would empty his huge bag and fill his big cloth money bag.  I used to wonder how he could get hot and steaming alu-bondas and buns in just a simple cloth bag.  He used to travel all the way from Rajajinagar by bus to reach J C Road and yet the stuff used to remain hot and fresh merely under sheets of newspapers.  He had no investment on any paraphernalia.  He required no publicity, no package, no influence and no hi-fi infrastructure.  The quality of his wares was enough to woo customers.  He was the only person who required no permission to enter even the cabin of the Chairman and Managing Director.  Starting as a simple mobile store, he grew into a caterer for weddings and functions.  He educated his children well and helped them settle down in good jobs, though he remained as simple as he was on day one.  I think he is still carrying on this business.

Thus, Bangalore has always been a forerunner in establishing varieties of eateries and bakeries.  You cannot find this many types of eateries and this good bakeries in any other city.  A whole community of Iyengars called ‘Bakery Iyengars’ have popularised bakery and condiment business in Bangalore and other towns of Karnataka.  We have traveled a lot and we miss such food-joints where you can find quality condiments and instant food items like bread, buns, puffs and beverages, in the other cities.  These joints serve thousands of people who cannot afford the star hotels or expensive eateries.  Many students, construction workers and salesmen in Bangalore thrive on the fresh breads and buns and badam milk served by hygienic bakeries.

So, we at Bangalore need not fear the entry of McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chickens, because we have our own smart businessmen who have innovative ways of serving loyal customers.  


About Sudha Narasimhachar 33 Articles
Sudha Narasimhachar is an ex-banker and freelance writer.

4 Comments

  1. I am definitely not against competition. Neither do I have any bias towards anybody or any orgn. However, I am concerned about the way huge ogns. with money and power can gobble up small little retailers, who are making a living in a simple way. We are seeing how small farmers who were leading simple and self-sufficient lives on their small little land-holdings are being displaced by the urban giants for various reasons in different ways. People who led simple but contented lives with pride are today working as class four employees in the resorts or clubs that bought up their lands.

    Japan had proved how cottage industries could be a great success. Why should we think BIG for every little thing, whe SMALL has its own charm and value?

    IT has definitely done a lot of good to Bangalore and India. But IT is not the only field required for our survival. Let us not sideline our strengths which are hidden in the glare of the IT success.

    Sudha Narasimhachar
    Sudha

  2. This us versus them mentality is sad to see in this article. Its a free world and people will adapt as in the examples of local businesses that you mention. Standards have been raised because of competition.

    Competition is good for the consumer and all businesses provide employment even if they are foreign brands. But the market will decide if they stay in business or not.

    Talking about fear makes us Indians look close minded and parochial.

    I hope you have no issues that large multinationals have set up facilities in the IT industry in Bangalore! Its good for the economy so lets not have misplaced nationalism.

  3. Do you mean to say that all up market restaurants and hotels are alien and take away something from people who cannot afford to eat there? These establishments also provide employment to many so please do not be biased towards a Mcdonalds or KFC as their franchises too belong to Indians in Bangalore.

  4. The creativity of people are commendable but why are you looking at Mcdonalds and Kentucky with fear? Everyone has their own market share in business in a thriving city like Bangalore.

    These franchises like Mcdonalds, KFC , Pizzahut etc are also owned by Indian business so why the bias?

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