Friday, December 01, 2006

Decongesting Usman Road

In Madras, the Usman Road/Panagal Park area (in T. Nagar) is a major bottleneck for vehicular traffic. The volume of traffic is itself high, but the place also has a number of popular shopping centres to add to the problem. During festive seasons, the place can rival the Kumbha Mela or the Mahamakham for the sheer mass of humanity that descends here to shop. And as we know, in India, festive seasons are spread all round the year. The situation has turned even worse since Saravana Stores opened a new branch, its second in T. Nagar, on Usman Road this year.

Saravana Stores is a huge shopping centre that sells everything -- clothing, footwear, home appliances, kitchen utensils, jewellery, sweets, etc. etc. etc. All at a low price. The (lower?) middle-class loves this shop. People flock to T. Nagar from all round the city (and from suburban areas too) to shop at Saravana Stores.

Decongesting this part of T. Nagar has been a tough question so far. The roads are too narrow to contruct any flyovers. Not that the Corporation (or is it the CMDA?) is interested in solving this issue, for it has permitted construction of huge shops here with no provision for parking.

But it looks like there is still some hope left: Walmart is coming to India, in partnership with Bharti Enterprises.

Some Indian blogs have been looking at Walmart as another grocery supermarket (like FoodWorld), but it's much more than just that. In my opinion, shops like Saravana Stores are a better approximation. If Walmart sets up shop in Madras in a well-connected place (maybe close to another local rail station) Saravana Stores is up for some competition. This is likely to draw away some percentage of the shoppers from T. Nagar.

Of course, "Walmart" is not the right name to have in Tamilnadu (Vaal = tail in Tamil). An alternative that can't go wrong is "Bhar(a)ti Murugan Stores" -- both Bharati and Murugan being immensely popular figures in the state. They can even have a logo with a laughing Sam Walton in it and call him Sami Annachi.

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