Once known for its tailors, Shahpur Jat, through its Open House festival, wants to rebrand itself as the go-to market in South Delhi

Located in a relatively unexplored part of Delhi, Shahpur Jat was once known for its tailors and upcoming fashion designers setting shops. However, a new breed of entrepreneurs has entered this urban village now who want to change its perception. They aim to do this through their Open House festival — organised this past Sunday.

“We are a community,” said Olivia Dar, owner of an eponymous boutique at the market. “Everyone helps each other out here, and everybody is my neighbour, rather than my competitor.” Vivita Relan, of The Wishing Chair, concurred, “We tell our customers which other shops in the area they must visit. The customer should go back feeling pleased at having been to the market. If my neighbour gets a sizable number of customers, so will I.”

Six stores were the main organisers of the festival, but in all, over 40 stands, cafes and shops participated in the Sunday fiesta. “It’s just a big party,” added Alecca Carrano, also a owner of an eponymous boutique. “It’s like a big barbeque where we all get together and have a lot of fun.”

The entire area was decorated with flowers, lights and balloons. Each store showcased their finest goods. Apart from that, some stores went a step further by doing a bit extra to attract customers. Aarti and Somesh Walia, of the Bookwise book store, organised a storytelling session for kids, to encourage them to read. “Our aim is to get children involved in books, as well as in arts and crafts,” said Aarti. “Our stories take the children back to their roots, imparting moral knowledge to them through learning. But,” she exclaimed, “Ours is a no-preaching, no teaching activity. We just want the kids to get addicted to books.”

Carrano, who asked a couple of her musically-inclined friends to perform at her store, was not the only one with such an idea – House Of Blondie also asked a couple of guitarists to come and perform. Carrano explained, “Today is not about sales — today is about creating a customer base.” Apart from solo efforts, a few stores got together and organised a deejay show and a dhol player.

Anamika Singh, of the Anandini Himalaya Tea shop, ushered everyone into her shop with equal gusto. Placed at the centre of her shop, on a glass table, were three types of dark chocolate — chilly, nuts and plain. And next to the chocolates were scrawled which types of teas one should pair the chocolates with. “I feel that in India, we have a palate but no refinery because of our dependence on masala. Hence, I, through my infusions, am attempting to bring the international market into the national one,” she said, while instructing us to have our chilli chocolate with pine wood tea.

At the Yoga Cafe, visitors were greeted with cucumber and mint flavoured water and millet nachos. Proclaiming that “the cafe provides food, fitness and paraphernalia,” Mona Madan, the partner of the cafe, said that apart from detoxifying foods and beverages, she also has regular yoga sessions at the establishment. “As of now, we cover most types of yoga. We also have a ‘yoga-on-demand’ system, where we teach basic yoga techniques to costumers, ranging from the time period of 20 minutes upto an hour.”

Inevitably, being a village located in South Delhi, comparisons are drawn with the nearby Hauz Khas Village, just a 10 minute drive away. Rikki Kher, of Kardo summed it up saying, “The best way to promote an upcoming market is by showcasing young, creative talent. Hauz Khas has poured its creative juices towards the culinary arts, while we have chosen to go in another direction.”