Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hearty Mart at Juhapura

Juhapura, a Muslim dominated area lies on the western outskirts of Ahmedabad near Sarkhej in Gujarat. It is situated along the National Highway 8A that goes towards Saurashtra and Kutch. Previously it used to be known as Jivapura and also as Sankalitnagar.

In order to rehabilitate the 1972 flood victims, a colony of 2,248 homes was developed; this was known as Sankalitnagar and around this colony then Juhapura developed. It was a small suburb with a small population until the early '90s. And as late as 1992, a large number of Hindus mainly from Dalit, Bhoi and Thakore communities lived here.

Most of the Hindus moved out of Juhapura after the communal violence that broke out post the Babri Masjid demolition in the year 1992. Jeevan Bhoi was one of those who lived in Juhapura till 1992. "After that it was frightening to live there," he says. "Many of my Muslim friends assured me that nothing would happen, but as I could not be at home for most part of the day, it worried me about my family's safety," he adds.

Again, the communal riots of Gujarat in 1992-93 and especially after the 2002 communal riots, large numbers of Muslims migrated to Juhapura from Hindu-dominated areas of Ahmedabad for a safe-haven. For a decade of 1992-2002, Juhapura largely remained an area which was considered as riot prone and downtrodden. It was deprived of basic amenities and though it became a pre-dominantly Muslim ghetto it was avoided by effluent Muslims.

Post 2002 communal riots even the effluent Muslims shifted their base and moved to Juhapura. This changed the social dynamics of the area and it started getting all the due attention from various corners. This migration of Muslims with deep pocket caused a construction and housing boom in the area with housing prices skyrocketing.
With a booming real estate the area promised development but still it remained devoid of basic amenities like a proper organized retail outlet which can provide convenience of purchase to the residents. Adanis had opened their supermarkets across Ahmedabad but for an obvious reason avoided Juhapura.

It was in this gap we found a huge opportunity to start an organized food-grocery store in the area in early 2004. Vishala Circle was the fastest developing area within Juhapura, as it was not cramped unlike other parts of the area and we could speculate a good growth of the area in near future.

With the vision of bringing convenience to the locality, we started Hearty Mart in February 2004. It was modeled as an ideal neighbourhood store and positioned as ‘Sabse Khass Ghar ke Paas’. As it was a store which was equipped to cater to all their basic needs. A store which was positioned as a convenience store and wanted to establish itself as a one-stop-solution for the daily needs of groceries, cosmetics, food grains etc. Thus was destined to bridge the gap between demand of daily needs and the options of supplies available.

It is said that one problem leads to another; even we faced certain problems which we could never speculate while we were deciding to open our shop here. The negativity attached with the area made the business operation really difficult. We realized that it was not at all conducive for a smooth operation as the vendors and suppliers were reluctant to support us and give merchandise on credit. In order to win their trust we organized get-together with them to break the ice and also paid them with advance cheques and even in cash till the time we had not win them over.
Even the residents were reluctant to purchase and we found meager footfalls in the first year. The problem was that:

• Most of them had migrated from other areas and they preferred to go back to the retailers from their old area to purchase. There was no shop patronage for Hearty Mart.
• There was lots of skepticism and suspicion on the future of Hearty Mart since they were well aware about the area and its image.

The immediate remedy of the above situation was to work in such a manner that they start patronizing the shop. As a strategy we undertook the following measures:

• We launched schemes like free-gifts and discounts on purchase of more than Rs. 1000/-.
• On completion of 100 days, a packet of 500 gms sugar with a personalized letter was sent to all the prominent customers. This was unique to the area.
• We started taking their specific orders for specific merchandise even when there was no demand for the overall product category. This made the customers felt special.
• Introduced loyalty cards and home-delivery. Again it was new to the area as there was no proper organized player who could provide them with such promotional offers.

Our faith in business and our efforts helped us gain their confidence. We slowly found that more and more residents became our patrons and it was their support which helped us in the most testing initial phase of the business. The footfalls started increasing day in and day out and we got the steady customer base.

The success of Hearty Mart at Juhapura broke the myth that the area was not conducive for business and no business can flourish here. Many entrepreneurs after closely watching the success started entering the area with their businesses and some of them are really successful. The development of the area post Hearty Mart is as follows:

• Hearty Mart is a prominent landmark of Sarkhej-Juhapura road.

• A good organized neighbourhood store in the area promises a convenient abode for the residents. Presence of Hearty Mart at Elecon Tower, ensured that all the flats of the 10 floor high-rise building were sold at a premium; which the builder could not sell before as people were reluctant to purchase an apartment in a high rise after the earthquake.

• Though now across India Subhiksha has closed down; it was success of Hearty Mart that encouraged Subhikhsha to set-up its shop in Juhapura. First national brand to open its shop here.

• A Private bus-stop has developed just before Hearty Mart.

• Lots of media coverage of Hearty Mart brand has perhaps inspired a leading Mumbai based non-veg restaurant to open its outlet here.

• Axis bank has opened its ATM in the premises of Hearty Mart. We have rented them 100 square feet for the ATM as a shop-in-shop concept. This has been accepted well by our customers as it adds to their convenience.

• Radhe Developer has announced 3 BHK premium apartment scheme ‘Imperial Heights’ bank opposite Hearty Mart. It would be having all the modern facilities for the lifestyle seeking residents. Again a unique residential scheme for the area which no-body would have thought of before.

Today almost 4 lacs Muslim live in Juhapura and that is why perhaps it has been termed as the largest Muslim neighbourhood in Gujarat. Contrary to its image of being crime-ridden and riot-prone it has been a preferred area off-late by Muslim professionals, artists, government officers of IAS and IPS ranks and businessmen. It is needless to say that they have contributed in the development of the area in their own special way.

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