Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Bhindi Bazaar


Mumbai …Usually known as The city of dreams.  And If you make hard work the motto of your life, this city can work wonders for u…. All you need to do is find the right place to showcase you talents and intelligence.
And the old streets of South Bombay are famous for its exceptional stories.
Lets get to know the story of Iqbql Memon, the owner of Officer brand shirts.  Just like other migrants Iqbal Memon came to the city of Mumbai in search of a livelihood. Iqbal had lost all his possessions during the 1974 communal riots in Orissa and hence he shifted with his family to this city of dreams in the same year.  Unable to feed and support his family initially he was forced to send his family  back to their native place and came to Mumbai, then called as Bombay, to struggle and earn a living.
During his initial days in the city Iqbal spent the night on the roads. He struggled to find a job for himself. But when he didn’t find any and his savings began to exhaust, he did not have any options but to start a business.
 As a first trade he started selling ball pens in a stall on the streets. After many months he could finally taste a profit of 27 rs. And then he never looked back. He managed to take a home on lease after paying a deposit of 5000 rs and 500 rs per month as rent, and hence Iqbal made Bhendi Bazaar his base. Within few years he became the owner of 100 such small stalls and started giving jobs to the jobless. In his stalls he sold items which were rarely traded.  And during the same time he started selling shirts and trousers and finally decided to trade with these items only.
And hence came the brand Officer shirts. The brand is named officer because Iqbal always liked the name and during his business days made friends with many officers. With each passing day the business expanded from one machines to over 100 machines and today is an established brand which is found in almost every apparel shop in Mahrashtra, Gujarat and far south of India. And soon after, Iqbal’s eldest son, after finishing a course in Fashion designing from London, joined the business and since then the company has started trading in designer items.
Till date Iqbal has held all his old fellow mates with whom he used to work during his initial dates in Mumbai.
This is one of numerous such success stories of a person who made a fortune on the same streets where he slept roofless.  Thousands of such stories must be heart touching and common in the heart  and the commercial hub of Mumbai. Apart from hospitable and helpful people the streets food the scandals and gang wars have always been in the lime light in this area. The initial look of this street will not please you much. But once you know what you will end up finding here you will definitely fall in love with it.
Bhendi Bazar, the name is definatley not unheard of,  it is one of the biggest market area in Mumbai.  The area comprises of more than 7 to 8 markets with residential place. The easy way of reaching this place by the railway station Masjid or you can fare a taxi from Grant road station to reach here. The busy market street is definitely a visit to the old backward Mumbai. The bazaar situated at the heart of Mumbai, has turned out to be a flourishing place for number of business. Geographically, the centrally located market has proved as a boon for trading in the area.
 Going back to the history of the place; the existence of the place was never recorded. But, we find the existence of this place even before India got its independence. According to the state history books ‘Maulana Mohammad Ali ’ had  secretly organized and fought pre  independence movements from the same place supporting Mahatma Gandhi’s non violent movements that is how one of the street in this bazaar gets the name of Mohammed Ali road. Original Bhindi bazaar got its name from the British when they used to refer this place as “Behind the Bazaar” referring bazaar to Crawford Market. The locals picked it up as Bhindi Bazaar and that is how we know the market today.
Crawford market has been the market for the British. The most famous market of South Mumbai was named after the first municipal commissioner of the city Arthur Crawford. The market of the british now houses an imported market of fruit, vegetable and poultry market. One end of the market is a pet store.  It is a designed market by William Emerson and Lockwood Kippling covering an area of 22,471 sq m.
 On the way from Crawford market towards Bhendi bazaar there is the famous Chor Bazaar, meaning thief market. You can find amazing little antique shops that look like musty attics and sell just about anything from old ship parts, grandfather clocks and gramophones, to crystal chandeliers and old English tea sets. Others offer authentic Victorian furniture, wonderful for browsers, antiquarians and restorers.
The area in and around Bhendi Bazaar has always been a Muslim majority ever since it came into existence but people from various community has owned trades in this market. Almost all the sect of  Muslim reside in the same area peacefully with a few non muslims as well.
Without doubt, Ramzan is the most celebrated festival in this place. The 30 days fast is more of a celebration than the actual festival of Eid. Minara masjid is the favorite spot of the foodies in that month with aromas of various mouth watering and tempting sweets and kebab available. The street is extensively covered by the media during these days. Where, bollywood stars are often seen feasting on the street food available during this month.
Kebabs and sweets are always the things that attract man tourist and Mumbai residents to this place. Aflatoon, rubber halwa, malpoa, firni and many other sweets has always been the talk of the street. Not only food the streets has become a wholesale market of possibly all the things that are ever required for any sort of business.
Any sort of business started and invested in the area has found its own audience and always done its best.
Case 2
Vo1: And so is the story of  Tawwakkal  sweets. The shop which has started almost half a decade after zam zam and Suleiman Usman was founded has found its audience and even managed to pull the crowd of zam zam and Suleiman. Moayyad Mithaiwala is the third generation who is handling the business now has seen the business growing from just a few common sweets to making exclusive sweets only available in the shop.
Vo2: The shop which had started with only half a shop space now has expanded to almost 5 shops making two of them its kitchen. A few exceptional sweets and its belief in quality has rooted the business with a very different crowd.  The shop caters to the bori crowd having a client base of almost 70 percent of boris using their products during festivals and occasions.
VO3: The competition that they initially faced from the other bigger shops turned out to be the succeeding point for the business. The tawwakal’s decided to specialize in mango malai, dryfruit halwa and sutarfeni and never tried to compete on their best selling products like nankhataee, aflatoon and rubber halwa.
VO4: In the street which is famous for its sweets establishing a new business standing against the such competitors was not a very easy things to do. But, Tawwakkal sweets has survived the struggle eventually and come out victorious with loyal clients to serve. So is it the geographical location to a great extent responsible for the success?
If food and sweet is not something that fascinates someone, the area has array of things to observe and experience. The busy roads and the congested housing system is one thing that one will definitely note about this place. The market which almost covers around 2.47 square kilometers is approximately populated around 1, 16, 525 people with an additional day time population of 50,000 visitors in the streets.
The area has 13 historical places to visit all of them dating more than 100 years from now. Zakeria Masjid which is 100 years old is situated in Mohammed Ali road has more than 1000 people daily to offer their prayers. Ghadiyal godi constructed in the time of britishers, Khoja Masjid constructed around 100 years ago and Abdul Rehman Shah Durgah constructed 200 years ago are the most visited places amongst all the other historical places.
 Jain Mandir , Shani mandir and Mahavir Swami Jain Temple are monuments dating around 150- 200 years  while, Shaar Rasoon Synagogue and gate of Mercy Synagogue are the two historic Jewish monuments in the area. The synagogue are said to be constructed in the 18th century.
The area was under lime light during the 1970’s when smuggling and drug peddling was a big business here. Names like Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim is always synonyms to the place. This area was the work place of Haji Matan while Dawood Ibrahim was born and operated from Dongri during his early days. In spite of having 98 percent of Muslim majority in the area the place has never faced any tension except the 1992 riots.
Those were the days of 70’s and 80’s but now, the area has become a wholesale market for all the possible products needed by man. Rexin, clothes, perfumes  are the cheapest and the best items to be found here. 
In midst of all the common business and a cut throat competitive market there are handful of business which is very different and are one of its kind to be found here. So is the business of feta making.
Case study 3:
VO1: Naseer-ul-Haq a trader in the same market has a trades of feta. Feta’s are bori caps which they wear to mark the difference between the muslims and the bori castes. All over Mumbai the feta’s are handmade and distributed by this one single family.
VO2: Naseer is the third generation who has taken over and handled the business from his grandfather and father. He migrated in the city almost 30 years with his family and took care of the business. The handmade Feta’s are required to have a few raw materials that have to be called from various parts of India.
VO3:  Apart from feta’s Naseer also deals with Bori topi’s which are handmade and stitched by women made of zari and thread. In spite of functioning in a non competitive market Naseer has observed that the business value in the market in the passing years has more than doubled now.
VO4: Naseer’s family has owned a shop and stayed in the same area for more than 80- 90 years. Gang wars and problems while enrolling his elder son is the most remembered till date.
  Gang wars and admission used to be a problem of the area earlier but now, congestion and clean water supply has become a major issue.  Reconstruction and evacuation of older buildings has started to be a problem of this area now.
Sohail Lokhandwala a college principle and a former MLA of bhendi bazaar has spent almost 60 years of his life in the area. He has also represented the area for five years. During his parliament days Sohail has addressed to such similar issues over and over again.
Definitely business has flourished in the area no matter during good or bad times. If you are in Mumbai and cheap shopping is something you are desperately waiting to do then this is the place you can find everything. And the tiredness after the shopping will be taken case by the mouth watering food stalls and restaurants.
Make sure after shopping enjoy the night life here!