Shopping in India is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The only way to describe the experience is sensory overload. While we’ve been in Delhi, we’ve be riding around in a nicely air conditioned bus with “tourist” emblazoned across the front window. Like bees on honey, vendors (hockers) swarm you as you get off and on the bus with all kinds of trinkets and mementos. Toy cobra snakes made of wood, bedazzled pens and elephants, postcards, stamps, magnets, umbrellas … and the list goes on and on. In the large tourist areas, some vendors are ruthless with their approach. “100 rupees!”, “3 for 50 rupees” are shouted as we weaved through the crowd. While this can get intimidating from time to time, you quickly realize that these vendors work hard every day to make money for their families. And with some items only costing one or two U.S. dollars, it is no wonder they are a bit aggressive.
If the tourist vendors weren’t enough, there are also bazaars and market vendors. The first retail location we visited was mild in their sales approach because the shops consisted primarily of big name brands such as Nike, United Colors of Benton and Puma. The retail area was similar to the outdoor malls that are popular back home. While we felt safe in the area, we had to be careful about men who tried to redirect our group down to shops off the beaten path that were selling pirated or counterfeit products.
Our next stop to Asia’s largest electronics market was like stepping into a really bad nightclub with sales men and women vying for your attention. The market was dark with ultraviolet lighting and the air was thick with Catholic mass incense. To gain insight into the Indian retail world, our group walked single file through one section of the market as vendors tried to entice us to buy a gamete of consumer goods. It was nice to take a walk around the air-conditioned market but we decided quickly that we had seen enough and that it was time move on to a new shopping location. Riding the escalator up to street level, the stifling humidity gripped us again as we made our way to the Delhi Haat market dripping with sweat.
Delhi Haat (http://delhihaat.com/) is a remarkable place. According to the Delhi Tourism website, Delhi Haat consists of 62 stalls selling handicrafts from craftsmen who come from all corners of India for 15 days at a time. Because it was lightly raining, the market was barely active. The products offered ranged from camel leather photo albums (that Matt and I bought for our portfolios) to stone coffee cups. Vendors would try to get a foot in the door by asking us where we were from and then spouting out random U.S. cities if we didn’t answer their initial calls to see if they can establish some sort relationship.
Bargaining seemed pretty intimidating at first but it became second nature after watching some of my friends negotiate down to ludicrous prices. I purchased some fantastic items (some of which cannot be mentioned here) that I cannot wait to show everyone when I get back to home.