Friday, February 26, 2010

Indian shop - 2

There has been a profound and rapid change in how commerce has evolved in India in the last twenty-five years. The growth of the retail industry has created new opportunities for the discerning Indian entrepreneur. The livelihood scenario that belongs to the Indian shop has changed from artisans who crafted and marketed brass pots to traders who sell plastic buckets and sintex tanks. Today, one finds traditional shopping environments that continue to sell fruits, vegetables and puja items as well as the modern shopping environments, where multi-national companies sell brands that compete in the international fashion market.

And less evident to consumers, shopping environments today present a clearer demarcation of wholesale and retail spaces, quite different from how it was in the old bazaars. This has created efficiencies in the way a modern market economy understands them, through ideas of ‘division of labour’, ‘specialisation’, and so on, but it has also expanded the distance between the people whose lives and livelihoods are scattered along the supply chain. Equally noteworthy is another kind of social distance - the segregation of residences and segregation of purchase environments that is now becoming the norm. Whereas rich and poor alike lived and shopped in the same marketplaces in the past, increasingly the modern retail environment is premised upon distinguishing between the two.

Against this backdrop, the Indian shop can be a collective memory of times past, and also an expression of the aspirations of today. Within bazaars and malls, one can look for and trace the cultural, sociological and aesthetic forms that are still evident in the patterns of commerce and trade, and the changes they are undergoing. One searches for a modern perspective for the architectural design of Indian shopping environments – the bazaars and the malls. The shop is a place of private consumption, and has been so for long. But, what used to be ‘private consumption in public spaces’ is increasingly giving way to ‘private consumption in private spaces’.

No comments: