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China bazars fall on hard times
Barkha Shah in Hyderabad
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May 25, 2005 13:02 IST

A big banner outside a shop catches your eye. "Any product for Rs 65," it reads. As you enter the premises, you are struck by the range of colourful items that have been cramped into a shop named China Bazar.

Hyderabadis got their first experience of China bazar around five years ago. At that time, the shop housed only plastic products, all at a fixed price of Rs 65.

Today, the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad are home to around 25 such bazaars, which sell products ranging from plastic toys and gift items to household appliances and even clothes.

It goes without saying that with the increase in the range of items, the prices have also moved beyond Rs 65. So while products like a plastic box come at a price of Rs 6 each, crockery sets are priced at Rs 500 each.

There was a time when Chinese goods attracted all and sundry in India. In fact, so much was the hype about goods being imported from China that the bazars did booming business once upon a time.

According to a roadside vendor who sells footwear exactly opposite a China bazar at Hyderabad's M G Road, shop owners in the vicinity had actually complained about their business being affected because customers made a beeline for the bazar.

"Earlier, a family from Aurangabad had set up a China bazar over here. But they were forced to move out because of pressure from the local shopkeepers. The bazar did affect the business of plastic ware sellers in the vicinity, especially because their products are cheap," the vendor says.

But a shopkeeper in the area denies this. "China bazars have not really affected our business as the products that they sell are of cheap quality. They do not source their products from the same place as we do," he says.

Abdul Layee, one of the several China bazar operators in the city, agrees that the quality of products that they stock is different.

But he says that the cheap prices and the build up about Chinese products do attract many customers.

"Now, however, we are experiencing a decline in profitability as the hype about Chinese products seems to have fizzled out," Layee says, adding that today only around 30 per cent of the products that the shop houses is from China, with the remaining being from Mumbai, Delhi and even Hyderabad.

Concurs Zulfikar Bhai, who operates one such shop at Banjara Hills: "Only some products like toys and gift items at our shop are from China." Zulfikar Bhai moved to Hyderabad from Madhya Pradesh where he used to earlier sell sarees.

"We used to do great business by selling sarees. But when we started making losses, we shifted to Hyderabad and started a China bazar. A large number of bazars here is operated by people from our community. Sensing the roaring business that we were doing, locals ventured into this business as well," he adds.

Today, however, he bemoans the fact that China bazars are not exactly flourishing. "We do not own the shop premises and pay a monthly rent of Rs 10,000. Then there are additional expenses of managing this shop. In spite of all this, we are unable to hike prices because the roadside vendor who does not have to pay rent and other expenses sells his wares at a lower price," he says.

"This is the case at all the China bazars in the twin cities. There are hardly any customers or even visitors to our shop, either because people are no longer attracted by Chinese goods or they are not happy with the quality of the cheap products that we sell. We have even started stocking new products like blankets to attract new customers but there are no takers for these products as well," Zulfikar Bhai says ruefully, adding that they themselves do not know for how long will they be able to operate these bazars.

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