Among the many charms of Malleswaram – an area known for its flower sellers, authentic South Indian kaapi stalls and hole-in-the-wall stores – are the numerous little shops selling religious items.
From incense sticks to diya battis to roli - chawal, they serve not only the homes where puja is part of the daily routine but also weddings, temples and festivals.
Metrolife visited the area to understand the functioning of these shops, what sells and how profitable the business really is.
For some suppliers, the shop is a family tradition passed down the ages and keeping it going is a choice they comply with gladly.
At Balaji Kumkum Kesari Stores, the current owner A Munirama informs that the family business has been going on for 65 years.
“My father opened the shop in 1949 and now, my entire family and I have divided the shop into three windows and sell from here.
Business is good and we’re known for our camphor, chandan powder, agarbati, havan samagri and paan-supari,” he says proudly. He adds that business shoots up during the festivals, especially from Varmahalakshmi to Deepavali.
“The profit margin is low but the prices remain the same even during festivals. There’s no competition because very few shops sell these items.”
Pradeep, a member of ‘Kannada Sena’, is a regular at Munirama’s shop. “I buy all my items here because it’s reasonably priced and of good quality.
It’s always nice to come to the shop myself and pick up the essentials for the house,” he smiles.
However, according to Vasanth Kumar, who owns Shree Lakshmi Narasimha Stores, from four to five, the number of shops selling these items have now shot up considerably.
“There are at least 15 to 18 shops in Malleswaram itself. But the competition is more area-wise because Gandhi Bazaar and Basavanagudi also have their own market for it,” informs Vasanth, whose shop was opened by his grandfather and has been the family business for 75 years.
He explains that while the products are sold on discount, the prices vary depending on market conditions.
“We try to keep the prices consistent as we take pride in this business and aren’t profit-oriented. But take paan patta for instance, which the government is
planning to ban and which is expensive to grow in certain seasons.
Market fluctuations force us to raise its price,” explains Vasanth, adding that he often provides bulk orders to the temples on Temple Road and for wedding functions.
Vijay, a customer at his shop, says that Vasanth has become a friend over time and that he always gets a decent discount there.
“The problem with these items is that you can’t compromise on the quality or refuse to pay what is demanded because of the purpose they are used for. I get my puja supplies from here because I don’t feel that pinch,” he confesses.
But the tides aren’t favourable for everyone in the business. Newcomers, for
instance, have a tough time cracking the market. Guru Prasad, who has been running Vishnu Enterprises for two years, informs that competition is tough and profits are marginalised for him.
“Business picks up during the festivals for a few days and is dull for the rest of the year. Sales would have been a lot better if I was on the main road and not the gully,” he opines.