Mr Paresh Mehta, partner Bombay Bazar talks
to Shoma Patnaik about the elements that make his store so popular
Walking down Panaji’s 18th June Road, a street choc-o-bloc with shops, cars and people, it is hard to miss the presence of multi-level department store Bombay Bazar. The place is apparently a hit with buyers. Exteriors are pleasing thanks to a recognisable name and an eye-catching window display of products while inside, the store emanates an ever diligent hum of consumer activity.
Probably the busiest retail outlet in the capital city, Bombay Bazar this year completes a milestone in history. Started in May 1987, it is now 25 years in operations, with a quarter of a century of steady growth in clientele. Catching up with partner-owner Mr Paresh Mehta was interesting. A typical representative of the careful Gujarati trader community he is not exactly comfortable with the spotlight and is unsure of how much to disclose of the flourishing fortunes. Preferring not to talk in figures, he nevertheless claims that sales and profits are "very good, increasing by the day and has always been so since opening."
The store it turns out belongs to three brothers with Mr Mehta in the middle of the hierarchy between Mr Jeetendra Mehta and Mr Ashwin Mehta. It also has a fourth partner; hotelier Mr Mandeep Singh, of Sher-e-Punjab fame, whose father Mr Kuldeep Singh was instrumental in guiding the three brothers to set up the store. In fact a picture of the late gentleman is right at the entrance for all to see.
Says Mr Mehta, "Our family is from Mumbai. My parents still have a small furnishing shop in Vile Parle." Initially the brothers dealt in garments on advice from their uncle who was a friend of the senior Mr Singh. They brought in bulk from suppliers in Mumbai and sold through exhibitions that were a runaway sell out. Soon Bombay Bazar came into being in the same premises as it is now.
Points out Mr Mehta, "Our earlier sourcing was primarily from Mumbai but now we get goods from all over India." The garments mostly are from Bangalore, Chennai or Jaipur and the other wares from their places of origin. As for handicrafts, the most recent addition to the range, it is from Agra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan etc. Customers are primarily local with 60:40 break-up between Goans and foreign tourists.
Observing shoppers over the years, Mr Mehta has got their psyche down to pat. He says, "Goans are informed shoppers, good spenders and prefer branded goods." Among the foreign tourists, the Europeans are "very clear on their needs, and like the British, are specific with requests and do not waste much time in choice." Comparatively the "Russian buyer loves to dawdle, is keen to look over several things before zeroing into the purchase."
The "ongoing economic upheavals in Europe," according to Mr Mehta, "has affected the volume of purchases from tourists." They think twice about spending, unlike in the past when they were really lavish with the money on shopping splurges.
A store run on traditional lines, Bombay Bazar, one discovers has never had a discount sale in all the twenty five years of existence, except for a once in a life time sale held for a week, very recently, as part of the anniversary celebrations. Says, Mr Mehta, "We do not believe in rebates or sales. Our margins are very low and profits come through volumes."
Touching upon the work practices he explains that the brothers are very much involved in the day-to-day running. Functions are clearly divided between three of them with eldest handling finances, management by younger brother and the responsibility of purchases borne by him. Further, work hours are long and mostly stretch the whole day from nine in the morning to nine at night.
Enumerating the strengths of Bombay Bazar vis-à-vis competing stores, Mr Mehta reckons that it is "price competitiveness" that has put them ahead in the race, followed by "variety" as new goods are added to the shelf "regularly." The other pluses are a dedicated sales heads who handle their divisions as independent businesses as they receive a "cut on the sales that they make."
What about the location, of a tourist frequented avenue? Says Mr Mehta, "When we first came here, the place was not so much about shopping. There were offices nearby and few local stores that downed the shutters at seven in the evening. Like Sher-e-Punjab, we introduced the concept of late hours and today all the shops in the vicinity are open until 10.30 p.m." Most of the credit, of the road becoming a commercial avenue according to him, is "because of the store."
Meanwhile he explains that over the years, the family has also launched other stores, viz. the two Baron outlets that sell women, children and men’s garments. Future plans could also include a second Bombay Bazar, but that "is a long way off with nothing decided for the moment."