DISAPPEARING TRADES Chennai

Saree shopping at your doorstep, no more

Unable to manage mounting expenditures and competition, many saree hawkers have taken up other jobs now — Photo: M. Vedhan

Unable to manage mounting expenditures and competition, many saree hawkers have taken up other jobs now — Photo: M. Vedhan   | Photo Credit: M_VEDHAN

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The 80s and 90s were the golden times, and the instalment system was the secret behind their success

Three decades ago, whenever P. Pasupathy cycled into a lane carrying a large bundle of crisp cotton sarees, women would gather together, excited over the shopping experience at their doorstep.

But now, this 55-year-old saree hawker, popularly known as pudavaikarar, sets out with his bag only if there is assured business.

“Earlier, I could venture into any street and find business through word-of-mouth publicity. Now, I am solely dependant on regular customers,” says Mr. Pasupathy, who untiringly rides 80 km on his two-wheeler every day, to meet customers in areas, including Porur and West Mambalam.

Hailing from Karur, the textile hub, it was only natural for him to be lured into the business.

Describing the 80s and 90s as the golden times, Pasupathy says, “I sourced sarees from Surat, Bangalore and Dindigul. Cotton vaayil sarees were a hit in the 80s. I sold them for Rs. 60 and met at least 10 customers. Now, I get hardly four customers because.”

Payment in instalments was the secret behind the popularity of the business. “I don’t get new customers anymore as online shopping and credit cards have caught the fancy of youngsters. Customers prefer to choose from a large collection of sarees in showrooms,” says Pasupathy, who has started selling churidhar sets and kurtas to suit the changing needs of customers.

However, mobile phones have made communication easy for hawkers. P. Manoharan of K.K. Nagar says, “Before landing up at customers’ homes, it is better to inform them, for security reasons and to ensure they are around.”

These hawkers have seen it all — from customers who treat them like family to those who cheat. “Some customers change homes and don’t inform us,” says Mr. Manoharan.

The hawkers take home around Rs. 15,000 every month. Unable to manage mounting expenditures and competition, many have taken up other jobs. Owning a textile shop remains a dream.

Mr. Manoharan’s children have taken up other jobs. He says, “I want to continue in this trade until age permits me, and bring home that little joy to my customers.”

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:41:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/saree-shopping-at-your-doorstep-no-more/article6332564.ece

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