Saturday, December 16, 2000
R E A L   E S T A T E

Purani Dilli continues to prosper
By Vasu

DELHI, with its immense commercial potential, is the ultimate dream market for manufacturers and retailers. But if you thought that having a shop at the posh South Extension Market or the Connaught Circle would give you the ultimate selling advantage, think again. They are not the places where the action is.

The ultimate advantage lies in possessing a small shop, a booth or even a khokha in what is probably the biggest wholesale market in Asia. It comprises Chandni Chowk, the dazzling gold bazaar of Dariba, Khari Baoli, Sadar Bazar, Jama Masjid, Kishan Ganj, Azad Market, Pahari Dhiraj and Darya Ganj. No set pattern exists in these places as far as property rates go, says Ghanshyam, a property dealer, who operates from Chandni Chowk. Rates of the shops vary entirely on the location and position. So a similar shop on the nukkad may fetch Rs 1 crore but the one located right behind it may not even fetch half as much.

  The pattern of deals here is traditional, and adds that in the walled city prices even depend on the religious affinities of the immediate neighbours. The smallest booth in

Khari Baoli is today priced at not less than Rs 30 lakh. The one in the medium segment comes for Rs 1 crore. With the dimensions not very strictly observed, the per sq. yard rates are at best approximate and for one double shop or one that is around 15 foot broad and around 20 feet in length the going rates are between Rs 1.5 crore and Rs 2 crore for prime locations.

The value of the property here is limited to the ground floors and the first floor holdings do not even get half of the asking price of the ground floor.

The entire business is focussed on the ground floor though some big shop owners have only recently begun converting their first floors to showrooms.

Earlier, most of the property transactions in this area were done on the pagri system, with the entire payment changing hands in cash and a rental receipt of Rs 200 to Rs 500 being asked for by the old landlord. The actual kabjaa (or possession) was the deciding factor of ownership here. However, the trend has changed somewhat and owners are now asking for registered deals, says Ghanshyam.

Between these areas the entire trade of silver, gold, cotton, jewellry, yarn, dry fruits, food grains, condiments, footwear, rexine, hardware, sanitary ware, paper/cardboard pipes, bicycles, spectacles, kites and even fireworks gets taken care of. Getting a property here is practically impossible, says Sanjeev Gupta, a prominent builder. Besides the fact that the sales price is determined more by the value of business and custom that the shop has undertaken in the past, finding a willing seller is problematic. This is because of the sheer business potential of the place where even a mere chaatwala earns at least Rs 2000 per day.

Sales of shops here are mostly distress sales and the cricket season, especially the India-Pakistan matches, see betting of immense magnitude resulting in commercial property changing hands.

Shahjahanabad happens to the biggest wholesale market in India. In these historic streets, transactions worth thousands of crores takes place every day. Being the central business township right from the time of Mughals, the lead is taken by the bullion market in

Chandni Chowk’s Kucha Mahajan where the daily transactions are estimated at Rs. 500 crore.

Chawari Bazar’s paper market is said to be the biggest paper mandi in the world and from the seven paper merchants who set up shop in 1911, there are over a 1000 merchants today. Some of them trace their lineage as the paper suppliers to Mughal Emperors Shah Alam II and Aurangzeb.

Khari Baoli retails spices, food grains, chemicals, grocery, dry fruits and traditional pickles. The dry fruits are procured from the USA and the Middle East, besides traditional sources like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Girodia Market is the world’s biggest condiments centre with its old haveli-like entrance. Though the kirana association was set up in 1905, over 5000 shops are today part of the spice and condiment trade here. A parallel market for kitchenware has also come up here.

Adjacent to this is the Chawri Bazar -- Asia’s largest sanitaryware market --leading into Hauz Qazi, Ajmeri Gate and Lal Kuan. Naya Baans is the world’s only mandi for betel leaves which find a ready export market in Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and the U K.

Chandni Chowk also houses the innumerable katras and kuchas that supply finished textiles to the entire retail network in northern India.

This is also one area where the property crash of the last three years has had only a marginal effect, say dealers. In spite of prices facing a drastic downtrend elsewhere, they are higher here today than they were three years ago.

This feature was published on February 26, 2000