Fresh from the farm

CONVENIENCE REDEFINED Visitors have their pick

CONVENIENCE REDEFINED Visitors have their pick   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: C.V.SUBRAHMANYAM

Customers never had it so good when it came to buying vegetables and fruits

Gone are the days when one had to necessarily go to the vegetable market to buy fresh vegetables and bargain with the petty vendors. One can now shop for vegetables in a relaxed air-conditioned ambience at prices comparable to the local market and sometimes even lower than wholesale rates.During the 1980 s small outlets sprang up in different corners of the city selling fresh vegetables but they didn't last long. The early 1990 s saw the emergence of vegetable merchants who were selling vegetables in bulk. They also imported certain vegetables like brinjals from Israel. They also too beat a hasty retreat.The dream merchants have now entered the retail vegetable market sector in a big way and seem to give the wholesale markets and Rythu Bazaars a run for their money. Apart from buying vegetables and fruits, one can also shop for provisions under the same roof eliminating the need to hop from shop to shop. Globalisation and privatsation has led to many employees working late into the night. Not all wish to dash off to the wholesale market or the Rythu Bazaars at dawn every day. The new stores are open from early morning till late in the night for the night birds to shop at their convenience.The main advantage of the convenience stores is that they stock all varieties of vegetables and fruits right round the year. In other words, if a vegetable or fruit is not available in the region during a particular season it would be imported from other States of the country or even from abroad. While small convenience stores sell at prevailing market prices or slightly lower prices, the big chain stores like Reliance Fresh can sell at much lower prices in view of their nation wide sales and bulk procurements directly from the farmers.The customer is also spared the drudgery of picking the fresh ones as the products are graded and generally the first grade vegetables are procured by the convenience stores. The vegetables and fruits which remain unsold on the first day are sold to small hotels and petty vendors the next day. This ensures that the items are fresh each day. The big chain stores strike a deal with the farmers and even supply them seeds and fertilizers to ensure that the farmers do not sell their produce to others. "I found the prices pretty reasonable and vegetables fresh at Spencer's and Big Bazaar. The packed fruits and vegetables at Trinethra rule out the option of selection and leave a doubt in the minds of housewives about the freshness of the content," says Uma Chodavarapu, a discerning housewife.She sees no immediate threat to petty vendors as lower middle class people hesitate to go to the big shops. They prefer to buy their small requirements from the friendly neighbourhood vendor and housewives always rely on the `sabjiwala' during emergencies."Vegetables are fresh, prices competitive and service is very good but the only constraint is space. We bought a medium-sized cauliflower for Rs.5. We had to wait for a long time in the queue to settle our bill," says A. Chandrasekhar, who has been to the Reliance Fresh outlet at Muralinagar."The vegetables are fresh and the prices competitive. I hope that they would stock chopped vegetables as they do in Chennai," feels N. Radharamani, a housewife, who went to the Reliance Fresh outlet at MVP Colony. Incidentally, she left behind the vegetables she had picked up unable to wait for a long time in the queue."The chain stores, which are now selling at dirt cheap prices, may hike the prices once the wholesalers are phased out from the market in the face of stiff competition over a period of time", feels a market watcher.Despite the boom in retail chain business, the present business is only 2 per cent of the total trade. This shows there is huge potential for growth and many more big chains have plans to set up their ventures in the city in the next couple of years, says another industry watcher, who prefers anonymity.B. MADHU GOPAL

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