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A nation of shopaholics

india Updated: Aug 17, 2009 20:29 IST
KumKum Dasgupta

Naina Bhatnagar, 16, keeps really busy these days. Her board exams are some months away and much of her time is spent on fine-tuning her accountancy calculation skills.

But the Delhi Public School Class XII student’s social life is intact. They include visits to the neighbourhood mall, watching the latest Bollywood flicks, or shopping at the popular flea markets in Sarojini Nagar and Janpath.

“There’s so much to choose from these days,” said Naina. She keeps an eagle eye on newspapers for new mobile handsets (“camera and Bluetooth are basic minimums”) and on Bollywood for the style trends.

Naina is part of the new India, the India that loves to shop and is not in the least bit apologetic about it. No wonderhttp://www.hindustantimes.com/news/images/shopping.jpg retailers are upbeat about the Indian market.

The Indian Council of Research in International Economic Relations, puts the size of the retail business in India at about Rs 20 lakh crore — almost twice the central government’s Rs 10.21 lakh crore Budget in 2009.

Said Sadashiv Nayak, president, Big Bazaar: “New consumption patterns keep us going. The sale of DVDs has shot up because people tend to keep DVDs in all rooms these days. Yes, there is this new freedom to shop but Indian buyers are consuming smartly.”

And despite the global economic downturn, the mood is upbeat. “New brands are being launched every day and consumers are spending a lot on entertainment and tourism,” said Paru Minocha, executive director of market research firm Synovate, which tracks these trends, among other things.

Naina and her friends feel shopping is fun. “But we are not very choosy about places; the stuff has to be trendy,” she said.

Once something catches her fancy (Katrina Kaif’s check capris in New York are a favourite), Naina and her friends troop down to their very own “fashion street.” Their ‘must-have’ electronic goods include snazzy mobiles and iPods.

Feeding the shopping frenzy are the ubiquitous malls. In 2001, there were only three shopping malls in India. Today the country has over 300 operational malls. The National Capital Region alone has more than 40.

This guilt-free shopping and the availability of world-class goods amazes Padma Bhatnagar, Naina’s grandmother. “Shopping in Delhi was relatively cheaper those days but the choices were limited. But then, so was our means. So we never hankered after expensive items,” she said.

When her husband started going abroad on work, her list of demands would include dresses for children, perfumes, chocolates and cheese. “But these days, you get the best of the world even in neighbourhood shops,” said Padma.

Quipped Naina: “It’s difficult to imagine a time when all these things we crave for were unavailable.” The shopaholics of new India, like Naina and her friends, are a smart set: they are not mall rats and are reluctant to let go of Janpath and Sarojini Nagar. “Malls are good for branded stuff like Tag Heuer watches or cellphones but for everything else there are standalone shops,” said Naina.

She discounts the wow factor that was once attached to “phoren” goods.” “No great shakes,” is her dry comment.