Once the place where people went to meet all their household needs, JanataBazaars have now been pushed into virtual oblivion
In the 70s, it was a one-stop shop where you could meet all your household needs. From groceries to stationery and clothes, Janata Bazaars had it all. But, the advent of supermarket chains and malls has pushed these outlets into virtual oblivion.
Of the two Janata Bazaars in the city, the one in D. Banumaiah’s College building on Sayyaji Rao Road shut shop around seven or eight years ago, while the one at Nehru Circle on Ashoka Road is struggling to attract customers. “We still sell groceries, stationery, clothes and so on. But, we don’t get as many customers as we did a few decades ago,” said Ashok, who manages the Janata Bazaar on Ashoka Road.
In their heyday, Janata Bazaars, the retail outlets of the Cooperation Department, used to have a steady footfall throughout the month. People would jostle with each other to purchase items such as shirts, pants and zips confiscated at the airport by the Customs Department and put up for sale.
S. Chandrashekar, president of Mysore and Chamarajanagar District Co-operative Wholesale Stores, who oversees the functioning of Janata Bazaars, said these outlets were unable to compete with the financial might of supermarket chains. “We can’t invest as much as they do. Hence, the number of patrons has gradually dwindled over the years.” Even though the popularity of Janata Bazaars has gone down, Mr. Chandrashekar said they are still making sufficient profits.
The JanataBazaars now cater to various government hostels and departments. “We bid for tenders to supply commodities to hospitals, jails, temples, government hostels and so on. We made a profit of Rs. 12 lakh in 2013–14 against a total turnover of Rs. 14 crore. The previous year (2012–13), we made a profit of Rs. 9.35 lakh,” he said. Though the Janata Bazaar ran into losses when the government appointed an administrator a few years ago, Mr. Chandrashekar said the outlet had consistently registered profits since 2009. Mr. Chandrashekar cited the example of how the JanataBazaars made a successful intervention in 2010 when the price of rice had skyrocketed. “We bought rice from the mills and sold it at Rs. 16 per kg for 25 days during an Akki Mela. Such interventions will deter hoarders,” he said.
Down memory lane
Old-timers got nostalgic when talking about shopping in a Janata Bazaar. Kundar, a resident of the city, said that in the 70s, he used to make all his household purchases at the outlet in the D. Banumaiah College building. “When the Janata Bazaars were opened, it was a whole new experience for us to take a trolley, pick up the commodities from the shelves and proceed to the billing counter,” he said. Prabhu, another resident, said: “Most of the groceries were reasonably priced. We used to find it cheaper to buy it there.”