Silks for all ages

WALK DOWN M.G. Road, and you are unlikely to miss the landmark that has been there for the last four decades. Yards of intricately woven silk, resplendent in their design and magnificent colours, decorate the windows, enticing the passer-by to stop and take a peek.

Vijayalakshmi Silks dates back to 1920, when D.A.V. Rathnam Shetty started the shop in Chickpet to sell silk saris and material. It drew a regular clientele, some of whom were fiercely loyal to the shop. With the number of clients growing by the day and Chickpet getting too crowded to enable hassle-free shopping, a decision was taken to move the shop to M.G. Road in 1963. The store was shifted at a time when this segment of Bangalore could not be credited with much commercialisation. Thus, Vijayalakshmi Silks was bold enough to move to M.G. Road, away from the Majestic Circle, then a bigger commercial centre. Loyal clients continued to crowd the store, as they did while the store was in Chickpet. Their children and grandchildren continue to flock the store even today. So, it's not uncommon to spot grandmother-granddaughter pairs shopping together here.

Says Usha, a housewife: "We have been buying saris here for the last 25 years. We keep coming back because here we are assured of the quality, and the prices are reasonable." Her niece Pavithra, a student studying in the U.S., adds: "I've literally bought a whole suitcase! I think they have a wonderful range."

Mamatha Viswanathan, also a housewife, agrees: "What I like here is the range. They have saris to cater to every purse and the quality is assured."

Vijayalakshmi Silks has the most enviable list of customers: Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Indira Gandhi, and Sonia Gandhi... Film stars such as Aishwarya Rai and Manisha Koirala also make a beeline to the store. Participants of the Miss World Pageant held in Bangalore in 1996 were adorned with saris from this shop.

So what is the secret of the store's success?

Says C.V. Govardhan, one of the partners and grandson of the founder: "Our silks are genuine, which means we will never pass on a lower quality product as superior quality. Besides, with eight members of the family attending to the customers, we ensure there is personalised service, to the extent that we get orders on the phone, not just from within the city, but from places as far away as the Gulf and the U.S.A.. We have earned great trust in the silk market."

The store houses a wide variety including Kancheepurams, Banaras silks, Mysore silks, Gadwal saris, georgettes, chiffons, besides South Indian cotton saris such as Coimbatore and Venkatagiri cottons to name a few. The saris are priced between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 40,000.

The shop's August annual discount sale, which offered up to 40 per cent discount on a wide variety of saris, drew huge crowds. Mr. Govardhan says that the sale is genuine. "This discount sale is not held to clear stocks or seconds. We have an understanding with the weavers to supply us stocks during this lean month at lower margins. We, in turn, cut down on our margins and pass on a genuine discount to the customers."

Looking at the customers eagerly sifting through the stocks and leaving the store with arms loaded with saris and smiles on their face, doubts on this claim are allayed.

As Mr. Govardhan says: "Once a customer, always a customer for Vijayalakshmi."

The store can be contacted on 5587395.