It would not be wrong to define Delhi as the metropolis of marts. It boasts of markets of all kinds — if it has glitzy malls, it also has stately shopping arcades such as Connaught Place. But Gaffar Market, in Karol Bagh, has always been in a different league.
Call it a grey market if you please, but for many decades now it has been a favourite one-stop-mart for those seeking ‘imported’ goods at less than the ‘official prices’. Garments , cosmetics, crockery, electronic gadgets, toys, shoes, you name it, and it’s here.
The market, where many shops have no names, witnesses a carnival-like atmosphere every hour of the day, crowded as it is with shoppers from all parts of the country. ‘Imported’ is the key word for both shoppers and customers. At Gaffar, nothing sells except ‘imported’ goods.
Says Ajay, who runs an electronics goods shop in the market, “This is the only place in the country where one can get a wide variety of gadgets and gizmos much before they are launched in India. In fact, at times you can get here what you will not get even in Europe.” And the man does not exaggerate.
The iPhone, hailed by Time magazine as Invention of the Year, was available in Gaffar market in August this year, while it was launched in Europe only in November.
No bill, no cry
Similarly, PlayStation 3 (PS3) — the latest gizmo for video game fanatics — was available at Gaffar a month before its launch in India early this year. “It is a market for those who do not look for bills or guarantees, but wish to stay ahead,” says a shopkeeper. And while talking to people, it seems there is no dearth of such customers. “I have come to buy a 32-inch Sony Bravia LCD TV which the company launched recently. I bought it for Rs 37,000 — much less than the official price, and I am not bothered about the bill,” says Mukesh Gupta who has come all the way from Meerut.
The market is also a hot favourite with youngsters. You can get a winter jacket for Rs 600 to Rs 800, shoes for Rs 400 to Rs 600. While most shoes are Chinese, the garments are mainly from Thailand. Shopkeepers even bear testimony that these are as good as any branded original. But the rip-offs evidently have many takers. Says Radhika Sharma, an engineering student who lives in Punjabi Bagh, “I bought a winter jacket for Rs 800, and it beats any brand in terms of styling, finish and quality of material used.”
But while the prices are a steal in Gaffar market, you need to be a skilful negotiator to get the best deal. Post economic liberalisation, shopkeepers say that the market has lost some of its customers, but is still going strong, thanks to the many dedicated customers who come looking for ‘imported goods’.
“Till 15 years back Gaffar market was famous for garments and cosmetics. There used to be such a rush of customers that we often had to make them wait outside the shop. Now it is better known for being an electronics market,” says Raju who runs a garment shop.
The market is also a favorite with domestic tourists who form the largest chunk of the customers today. “I sell Chinese shoes that are affordable, and of good quality. Seventy percent of my customers are tourists who come all the way from Kerala, Bihar, Orissa and Tamil Nadu,” says Ajeet who runs a shoe shop.
Like in other markets, the rents in this ‘grey’ market too, have been soaring. Rents are anything between Rs 50,000, to Rs 1 lakh a month for a ‘proper’ shop. Even the small makeshift counters placed at the gates of shops — which sell mostly second-hand mobile phones — have to dish out nearly Rs 15,000-20,000 a month. In keeping with the times, some shops are trying to reinvent themselves.
There is a new garment shop, just two months old, that boasts of chic interiors, mood lighting and music. Ask the man at the counter what the shop has on offer and he says,“We only sell imported stuff”. That may not be the answer you’re looking for, but as we said earlier ‘imported’ is the USP of the market.