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Mumbaiwale: Open to alternatives

Put away those cheap umbrellas. Luxury brands and new technologies are now catching local fancy

mumbai Updated: Jun 09, 2018 19:09 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
As middle-class aspirations are changing, people are spending less and less time in the rain, but spending more and more money on umbrellas.
As middle-class aspirations are changing, people are spending less and less time in the rain, but spending more and more money on umbrellas. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

Right now, Pardeep Kumar’s job is a pain in the neck. At his stall under the arcades at Fountain, the most colourful umbrellas are all strung 10-feet-high so pedestrians can see them better. “I sell about 2 to 3 umbrellas every hour,” Kumar says. “Every year there are new requests.”

Over nine monsoons, Kumar has heard them all. Mumbai used to want small, three-fold designs that fit into bags – those turned out to be too flimsy. They believed that shiny inner layers would repel UV rays – he knew they didn’t. Then, they wanted bright digital prints to distinguish them from the usual blue and black – but people misplaced them anyway. Then, young women wanted big grandpa umbrellas – with bright prints on the inside for the user to enjoy.

“This year, people have been asking how many ribs the umbrella has, the more the better,” Kumar says. “The reverse-close design is also selling well. People will spend more on a design that they specifically were looking for.”

Mumbai’s oldest umbrella sellers, Ebrahim Currim & Sons, have been in the business since 1860, starting with a small store at Fort and larger shops near Pydhonie and Princess Street later (Satish Bate/HT)

The city’s oldest umbrella sellers, Ebrahim Currim & Sons, have been in the business since 1860, starting with a small store at Fort and larger shops near Pydhonie and Princess Street later. Both stores are packed in the first weeks of the monsoon. The goods rarely cross ₹1,000.

But middle-class aspirations are changing: we’re spending less and less time in the rain, but spending more and more money on umbrellas. I was part of a WhatsApp group last year in which one 30-something man, who has a car and driver, gushed about the smooth open-close mechanism of his Burberry umbrella. It cost Rs 14,000. Someone else I know ordered the iconic 24-rib, wind-resistant style from the American company, Becko, online. They paid Rs 5,000.

In Japan, ultra-light, three-rib umbrellas that fold down to palm-size have long served as souvenirs. A basic transparent style, 100 yen at 7-Eleven shops, is the country’s most stolen item. Neither can face a Mumbai downpour. But as more of us use umbrellas to merely dash from exit gate to Uber, and top brands ship to India, choices are opening up. Take a look.