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Hypermarts, cafes and subliminal marketing

IIMB Hostel on a Sunday evening is not quite the most happening of places to enjoy life in and so I decided to venture out and see if I can find something worth exploring in the city. While on my way to Majestic (area near the city Railway Station), I realised that I needed to buy a few articles of clothing. This diverted me to the Big Bazaar next to the Forum mall.

Now this Big Bazaar is quite a unique beast. Having sampled its wares at the famed Phoenix Mills outlet, I was quite aware of the magnitude and nature of this only (till-now) hypermart for those on the lower rungs of the middle class totem pole. What I was not prepared for, was the difference a weekend evening can make to the crowd levels.

It started with a queue, yes a queue, to get inside the place, Now, queues to get a Railway booking done or to get a movie ticket I understand. But, a queue to get inside a hypermart, I do not. I mean, whats wrong with people ? Its not like its a 2 - hour relaxation in between round-the-clock curfews with shoot-at-sight orders, for chrissake !

People were so anxious to get inside that they were even flouting traffic rules and parking right on the main Hosur Road, blocking traffic. Sure as hell, the traffic police swung into action and started towing vehicles by the dozen. Despite there being adequate parking space available, people parked on the road because they wanted to get inside as soon as possible. I dont know how much they save due to their purchases, but surely the savings are not more than the cost of coming to the place (fuel) and the fines for illegal parking.

Add the opportunity cost* of spending time at the place rather than enjoying their weekends and it really ceases to make any sense at all. I actually found people from far off places like Malleswaram and Hebbal shopping away with gay abandon, totally oblivious of the crowd, the jostling, the stuffy atmosphere.
*Non-MBAs are requested to ignore this strange term. Readability and comprehension will not be hampered to any degree.

My friends from Mumbai will get a very accurate idea of the whole scene if I state that it was pretty similar to Churchgate station at 10 A.M. on a weekday. For non-mumbaikars, that spells as C-H-A-O-S, simple.

What made the situation even more peculiar was the fact that apart from a really sweet (too sweet ? I wouldn't know) deal on Silk Sarees, there was nothing earth-shattering about the prices. Agreed, they were amost always lower than the MRP, but not so low that they can justify going through all this trouble to avail of the savings. I mean, yeah I get a particular brand of soap for 30 paise lesser than I would get from my neighborhood Kirana store, so what ?

I spent a good 40 minutes roaming about the place and ended up scanning every section on every floor, including the ladies' garments, the kids toys, the luggage and even the cosmetics section apart from the obvious grocery section. I didn't buy anything finally. Not because I didnt like anything, but because the serpentine queues at the check out counters made me dizzy.

Hence, despite wanting to take 4-6 mamooli items, I ended up walking out empty-handed just because of the crowd. There has to be something wrong here. Either the people who are in those queues, to get inside and to get out, are not quite thinking or I am missing something. Any comments, anyone ?

By this time, I was a little bit bugged and a bit more than little tired and hence entered Forum with an intention to find a place to sit and unwind with something cold and refreshing. Alas, with it being a Sunday evening and all that, all the normal places to hang out, McDonalds (loooooooong queue similar to Big Bazaar, what's wrong with us ? ), Pizza Hut, CCD, & Transit (the food court) were totally full. I was getting a shade desperate by now.

Salvation came in the form of The Reliance Webworld outlet on the ground floor. All Webworld outlets (but not Webworld Express, those are smaller versions) have a cafe, Java Green, co-located within the outlets themselves. Now, not many people are aware of it yet. And among those who are, quite a few are not quite sure of patronising a cafe run by the Ambanis, what with their reputation of cheap products and shoddy quality (not warranted at all, IMHO)

So it was that this cafe was quite empty and I gladly parked my posterior on one of the many inviting chairs. Take a look.

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Having found a resting place for the next two hours at least, I scanned through the menu and was pleasantly surprised. Instead of the usual CCD and Barista scale rip-off pricing, Java Green's prices are really the type which allow you to choose anything on the menu without running a calculator in the head, arriving at the running total for every pick off the menu.

Butterscotch Cappuccino at Rs. 25, Latte at Rs. 20, Soups at Rs. 20, Pasta for Rs. 35, Pastries priced at or less than Rs. 40, Granitas ( ice blended with flavors like litchi, strawberry etc) at Rs. 25, Cold coffees at or less than Rs. 35 are prices you would not normally associate with a Cafe setting, as you know it.

Special mention must be made of Hazelnut Mocha (Cold Coffee) and Ruby Ice Granita, both of which are truly awesome. The quantity of the pasta though might leave a few people grumpy, like yours truly.

A highly recommended place if you are on a light budget or are not quite impressed by the CCD, Barista types.

Note: An extremely interesting thing I noticed was the fact that there were Reliance India Mobile fliers, brochures and other promotional literature strewn all over the place. I think it is a very potent and unique tool for pushing the RIM brand and its products into potential buyers.

With time to kill and nothing better to do while you wait for your order to arrive, these bright and colorful leaflets attract attention and entice you to read them, just to kill time, if nothing else.

Read them a couple of times as you keep coming to the cafe for your cuppa and who knows, you might be convinced of the benefits of RIM and decide to buy it.

I might be wrong but I think this is a deliberate strategy by Reliance. If it is, it worked on me. I read quite a few of the fliers and even brought a few home with me, something which I was surprisingly allowed to do.

Now, lets see when I take the plunge and go back to Reliance after almost a year of good-old BSNL.

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