Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mom 'n' pop

It is quite literally the corner shop. And it is one where the shopkeepers stay on the floor above their shop. To top it all, it is called 'Amma Naana', which translates as 'Mother and Father'. If there is one independent retailer who is not quaking at the thought of FDI in retail, it must be this store on Chamiers Road. 

Flashback to a little over 40 years ago. At the turn of the '70s, the shop in the corner was called Fairlands and was operating on rented premises. When they got the chance to occupy a much larget space just next door, Fairlands moved out of the 1200 sqft storefront they were using. The owners of the newly vacated storefront offered it to their son-in-law, V.R. Govindaswamy, who stocked it up with merchandise that would interest residents of the affluent Boat Club area, right behind the store. 

Over the past dozen years or so, Amma Naana has shown that it has hit the bulls-eye with that strategy. Boat Club attracted the professional expatriate who came in to Chennai in the late 90s, with large pockets and a taste for 'world class' products. Amma Naana stocked the brands they were familiar with, either from their home country or those that were known world over; brands that were unavailable in the regular market in India. Long before Starbucks made its India entry (last week), you could buy their Mocha Frappe - and other coffees - from Amma Naana. 

Amma Naana continues to remain independent and single-store. They continue to shut the store down on Sunday afternoons. And it continues to be the go-to place for the fresh-off-the-boat expat in Chennai, to get those familiar packages for her kitchen!

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