Why should you visit? Insights to be gained for small business owners
Are you planning to visit Shahid Bhagat Singh Road on your next trip to Mumbai? Well, if you ask for directions, many Mumbaikars may look puzzled. Don’t get surprised- there is nothing unusual; the place is still commonly referred to as Colaba causeway and not by the revised name; as it happens, a locality becomes popular in a particular name over the years imprinted in the minds of people, sometimes across generations.
Colaba Causeway is the land link connecting Colaba, and the old woman's island is an important commercial area today and among the best markets in Mumbai. It is situated close to the office and business area of Fort and the east of the upmarket south Mumbai neighbourhood of Cuffe Parade.
Old buildings from the colonial era add a unique look and feel to the locality; the exquisite showrooms spice up with glitter and create a picture of the modern amidst ancient. Small shops, pavement sellers, restaurants, cafes, roadside eateries complete the scenario to make the neighbourhood an attractive tourist destination. For the locals, too, Colaba Causeway is one of the preferred markets in Mumbai.
Why would you visit this market?
For everything, one goes to a shopping mall or any marketplace - Products for all budgets, unique items, and multiple food options. From famous restaurants, cafes to street food, there is a wide choice for everyone.
And, most importantly, for the ambience of the place. In short, for a complete shopping experience rounded off with a happy feeling of time well spent.
This (Colaba causeway) iconic marketplace with a historical past is today famous for fashion garments and accessories, clothes, electronic items, shoes, antiques, and more. A place where high fashion rubs shoulder with street-smart designs sold on the pavement, satisfying the typical customers' needs.
Some look at it as a bargainer’s paradise; others vouch for various items' uniqueness and designs. To another group, it is just the happening destination for the ultimate in fashion. But, before we further explore the Colaba causeway market, a brief look at history.
Colaba was a small island on the southern tip of Mumbai, and people living there used to visit the fort area (a hub of business then and even now) for earning a living. The only means of travel was a boat. Frequent accidents (of boats) forced the then administration to build a causeway completed in 1838. However, regular day-long traffic started only in 1873 on the improved causeway, which used to be only during low tides previously.
What is unique about the Colaba Causeway market?
Marketing and logistics play a crucial role in today's business, whether it is retail or wholesale. Many of the favourite items of a particular place are available elsewhere as well. Shops that have acquired an iconic status together with the pavement sellers of accessories and knick-knacks generally build up a marketplace's identity.
Among the famous ones, Curio Cottage is a shop selling an Indo–western jewellery ensemble. Custom-made wedding jewellery is their speciality.
Le Mill is a fashion store located on the same building's first floor (as Curio Cottage). Le Mill, founded by two French women, is a 4000 sq. Ft place that offers you a choice of international labels along with a collection of several well-known Indian designers.
Parvati Villa is a store selling designer jewellery, accessories, and ethnic Indian dresses. The USP (unique selling proposition) of the shop is the influence of goddess Parvati and the concept of Shakti (as in Indian mythology) on the designs of most items.
Are there insights to be gained for small business owners?
Let us take up the example of the three stores we just discussed. Curio Cottage and Le Mill are not heritage (read old) establishments, yet they are among the most famous. These stores retain their popularity because the owners stuck to their niche products, added on to the range within the same category, organised an excellent display, and handled customers well. Parvati Villa has adopted a particular designing stance and built up its entire merchandise around it.
The satisfactory experience of customers/visitors leads to a positive word of mouth; this, in turn, consolidates the brand image continuously.
Keeping the experience in mind, what are the takeaways?
While the takeaways are primarily for retail business owners, concept-wise, they are equally effective to other product/service categories.
1. Finding your niche:
Servicing specific customer segments attracts niche customers, and the subsequent reputation of the place draws other customers. From promotion to the product range, the business's entire focus must be as per the demands of the niche segment.
2. Better display, better sales:
The adage is genuinely applicable to the retail trade. The display is an important motivator of sales, equally valuable for the largest showroom and the small seller on the pavement. Small business owners must create a small corner for display even if they operate out of a tiny space.
Fast-moving products, new introductions, or items under current promotion in visual media (TV) should find a place in the display. Sometimes due to various reasons, the business owner may prefer to push a particular item –such products should also figure prominently in the display.
3. Importance of Packaging
The packaging adds to the value of the product, and customers willingly pay a higher price. Good packaging strengthens the customer's perception of a superior product.
Lessons on customer handling: One must watch and study how an efficient shop owner converts a customer's interest into the final action of sales. It is a particular skill, and the better one can master it will be better for the business.
4. Connecting with the customer
Brand image (for the shop/product/services) is an integral part of any business's marketing agenda. Large and established firms and shops enjoy an advantage in terms of financial freedom, small enterprises can benefit from cost-effective digital marketing tools for promotion.
Few tips for the visitor
1) If you are not familiar with Mumbai, CST is the closest railway station (local + long distance), and the Colaba Causeway market is around 3 km away. The best option is to take a bus (or a taxi) from the railway station to reach the place.
2) The place is open from 10 AM to 10 PM on all days, though few shops may be closed on Sundays.
3) Whatever you shop (or not), do not miss the food options, as no shopping experience is complete without food! There are plenty of street food choices, plus the famous ones like Mondegar cafe, Leopold cafe, Bademiya, Piccadilly, Baghdadi restaurant, Olympia Coffee House, and many more.
4) You can do bargaining while purchasing from pavement stalls.
5) The Colaba market is not a wholesale market in Mumbai. You can prefer to make bulk purchases at any of the large shops, but the market primarily caters to retail customers.
6) First-time visitors should not miss the nearby tourist attractions- Strand Promenade, the Gateway of India, The Tajmahal Hotel, and Afghan Church.
A market teaches us several lessons if you are willing to learn; from how to sell a product to a customer to what should be avoided (arguments, bargaining beyond a stage and the like); the importance of product display, range (of items), packaging and many more. The Colaba Causeway market in South Mumbai is no exception, and a day spent at the marketplace can enrich you with excellent food options and lessons in the retail business.
Q. Displays, promotions, connecting with customers require funds. How to get additional financing for my retail shop?
Ans. Marketing is a necessary tool to stay ahead in the present-day competitive scenario. You have to find money to stay in business. Apart from banks, you can get in touch with online fintech companies. Many of them have tie-ups with NBFCs. You may try OK credit, which has a large satisfied customer base.
Q. The Colaba market shops get high customer traffic. How can I invest in promotion in my place, which does not have so many customers?
Ans. When you set up your business, you always start with an estimated customer base. It would be best if you used marketing techniques to retain customers. You should always focus your promotion on your potential customer base.
Q. What are the two most critical items for a small retailer?
Ans. The product range and customer relations are the main ingredients of a successful retail business.