For the brand-conscious Bangalorean, who wants to wear a shoe with a ‘tick’ on it while not having to shell out half his monthly income, there is a saving grace to the swanky branded stores that have come up in the city in the past decade. Night Bata — this roadside market is fondly called by its patrons.

A row of hawkers sit on the periphery of Apsara theatre in Kalasipalya, selling shoes with all kinds of logos, from the Pumas to the Nikes, at prices that are nearly 60 % lower than their showroom prices. Most of the shoes are in perfect condition, the operative word being ‘most’.

Business strategy

The narrow footpath presents an interesting pattern of shoe displays, arranged on a sheet on the floor. Each hawker has a distinct style of business.

The ‘take it or leave it’ hawkers will leave you to bend down and pick up a shoe; the more ‘customer-friendly’ ones swiftly pick out the shoe that you point at, giving it a dust and presenting it to you as if it were a prize. The sellers are also cobblers in between their sales routines.

Shabbir, who owns the biggest display in the market, inherited it from his father and has been doing business there since the age of nine. Today, at 27, his display has the maximum number of branded shoes.

On Sunday mornings, the busiest time in the market, his shop is jam packed, with people buying up everything he has to offer by mid-noon. “Night Bata has been around for as long as K.R Market has been around,” he asserts. The stores are open till 9 p.m. on all days.

No frills

There are few things, however, to be kept in mind while shopping here. Firstly, as one of the hawkers pointed out, the availability of different sizes is based on one’s luck. Next, one should be prepared to balance on one foot in order to try the shoes on.

This is crucial as one cannot expect to fit one’s legs into shoes with at least a stable seat to sit on. Once a right fit is found, the shoes will be packed in a Government approved 60 micron black polythene bag.

The ridiculously low prices of branded shoes here need not however stop one from bargaining as the sellers are always up for a round of hard talk.

One should be warned however that though many of these shoes are original pieces; there are some very cleverly crafted fakes that are kept among them.

Interestingly, some hawkers claim that they are even given shoes by the showrooms themselves, to mend their soles and other minor damages. A testament to their craftsmanship.

After a tough session of bargaining with shoe-hawkers or in electronic stores, one can cool off at the range of Sulaimani or Irani tea stalls across the road. Beware of zipping motorists while crossing under the flyover to get to the stalls, that offers a limited range of hot and cold beverages. Their famous lemon tea is their highest selling item which is not surprising given its tangy refreshing taste. The ‘rooh-afza sharbat’, a milky concoction, is another option for those who prefer a cold beverage and have a sweet tooth. To much along, there is the deep fried onion stuffed samosa, with a crispy crust, made fresh at the stall throughout the day. For a sweet snack, there is the Khajur Burfi, also made fresh on the spot, from dates and flour. Some stalls advertise Darjeeling or Assam tea, and offer milk tea for those who cannot drink it black.