Monday, March 31, 2008

Goa Calling

After several months of intense focus at work, I finally managed to get a few days off last week. Aanish and Ayaana had their spring break and this was an ideal time for a short vacation. The kids have never been to Goa and it's been over a decade for Mona and me since the last time we were there. So Goa it was!

Goa was everything that we remembered and much more. The place has become a real world class tourist destination. And judging by the number of foreign tourists, it is clearly extremely popular among Europeans and Asians.

We were staying at the Taj Holiday Village and had a relaxing and fun time. We went on a boat ride to see dolphins off the coast, watched a cooking demonstration by one of the chefs, went jet skiing, swam, ate and lazed around in our villa. Weather was exceptionally good - not too hot but just right. Who could ask for anything more? Ayaana declared that this was one of her best vacations ... so the next one is going to be tough to beat.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Supermarket Wars!

The experience of buying groceries in India has transformed over two decades. The days of a vegetable vendor with a push cart arriving door-to-door are a thing of the past. The small local general store that sold everything from food grains to calculators have become extinct.

A few weeks ago we walked into the newly opened hypermarket SPAR. SPAR is an international food market and is a leading chain in the UK. Started in 1934 in Netherlands, this company has started opening big-box supermarkets in India. The latest one to open in Bangalore is simply HUGE! There is not very much in terms of food supplies that a typical NRI or an expat would miss after stores like this open. The local business titans are not to be left behind. Both Tata and Reliance have made entries into this segment. Reliance has a model of hundreds of small stores (RelianceFresh) nationwide while Tata is following the big-box model with their Star markets, where you can get wheat freshly ground to flour for those hot rotis and parathas!

The smaller boutique markets (Nilgiris and Namdharis) still exist and cater to a small target group of customers.

These markets are complete with delis, fresh hot food, bakeries and other services that an Indian housewife (oops ... home maker) would have killed for 10 years ago! A stroll through these markets is a truly international experience as well as you now have access to food products from all over the world - cheese, chocolates, cereals to oils and spices. All of this is coupled with the exceptional high standards that have now become a hallmark in the Indian retail industry.

It is simply not going to be as much fun shopping at Ralphs any more!