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2 decades after Koyambedu’s rise loyal patrons help Kothavalchavadi thrive
The market was shifted to Koyambedu in 1996 as there were complaints of traffic congestion on arterial roads due to trucks coming to the heart of the city. One of the oldest wholesale markets has shrunk from 800 to 200 outlets now.
More than two decades after the wholesale vegetable and fruits market was shifted from Kothavalchavadi near Parry’s to Koyambedu in 1996, one of the oldest wholesale markets continues to thrive and has evolved to adapt to the challenges.
Kothavalchavadi market had to be closed and shifted out of the city as there were complaints that the huge inflow of fruit and vegetable trucks to the heart of the city created a lot of congestion on arterial roads, besides the market area. The State government, at the time, constructed a sprawling campus to accommodate 1,809 vegetable stalls and 828 fruit stalls and offered them to Kothavalchavadi vendors for relocation. Besides, a flower market and a food grain market were also built.
While the Kothavalchavadi market has significantly shrunk in size, vendors claim that business continues to be as usual. Azhagar A, a vegetable vendor at Kothavalchavadi market said that he still has a steady stream of customers despite the bulk of the business shifting to Koyambedu. “We do not directly receive vegetables from producers. We purchase our stock from the Koyambedu wholesale market. As our market is smaller, only small vendors purchase from us. The government had allotted places in Koyambedu for all the vendors. But some of us, including me, did not take the offer as we were satisfied being at Kothavalchavadi. Besides, I did not have enough money to lease a stall back then. But now, I have expanded my business to two shops here, which explains the current position of the market,” said Azhagar. “My plan was to develop the business here instead of spending twice for business at Koyambedu. And it worked.”
The vendors pointed out that they spend Rs 120 to Rs 150 a day to bring vegetables from the Koyambedu market. “Vegetables and fruits are sold for Rs 10 to Rs 20 more per kilogram than the wholesale market prices. Even during the spike in onion prices last month, vendors here were selling the vegetables at a reasonable price,” said another vendor.
Patrons of the market, mostly residents of North Chennai, claimed that they preferred purchasing vegetables and fruits from Kothavalchavadi as they are being sold at a reasonable price. “Compared to other shops in the locality, the quality and quantity here are better. Even if you come in the evening, vegetables will be fresh and it can be stored even for a week. Whereas in other markets, quality produces are not available in the evening and the prices will also be more,” said Shanthi R, a customer from Tiruvottiyur.
While the perishables market has fully shifted, Kothavalchavadi remains the headquarters for food grains, packing materials, including dry leaves, which are being sent from this market to the Koyambedu wholesale market, too.
“We have been selling dried leaves for more than 85 years and it is traded to Jordan, Bihar, West Bengal and even to Koyambedu market. Even after we were offered shops at Koyambedu market, we stayed here as this is a central location, which has better transportation facility. North Chennai saw not much damage even during floods and cyclones,” said Madhava Rao R, a vendor.
One of the oldest rice wholesales outlets in the market is Balaji Wholesale Trading unit, which has remained here despite the challenges. “We supply rice grains to Koyambedu market, Red Hills and even to markets in Kancheepuram district. Since the Koyambedu market was established in 1996, we have been trading to that market from here,” said R Ravindharan, who has been working at the wholesale trading shop for more than 30 years.
Customers pointed out that the market is hygienic and maintained better when compared to the Koyambedu market. “Vendors religiously dump vegetable waste in the garbage bin nearby. In case the bin is overflowing, they would store it in a sack and wait for sanitary workers to collect them at night,” said a resident.
However, those vendors who moved to Koyambedu market soon after it was inaugurated claimed that their business has also grown since shifting. “Compared to Kothavalchavadi, we have developed our business and there are many customers here. When we were in Kothavalchavadi, the loads came only in the mornings due to space constraints. In Koyambedu, load comes thrice a day,” said M Thyagarajan, a tomato vendor at Koyambedu.
While the Kothavalchavadi market has shrunk from 800 to 200 outlets, vendors and customers said that it is here to stay and has its patrons who prefer shopping only here.