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    Getting Quirky and Edgy at MaalGaadi

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    “We wanted to open something different, the kind of store that wasn’t already available in Chennai,” says Shahin Ansari, co-founder of MaalGaadi, a concept store in Chennai that houses everything – from designerwear to footwear and accessories and knick-knacks for home interiors. Having a department store, which houses apparels, footwear, accessories and soft furnishings, is an expected thing but a store with bohemian ambiance is what is setting new standards in the industry.

    Your hear the name MaalGaadi and your mind automatically creates a picture of a train belonging to yesteryears. It definitely happens subconsciously though! So what made the mother-daughter duo – Sakina Ansari and Shahin Ansari – opt for this name for their first retail venture? Explains Shahin: “We chose the name MaalGaadi to reflect the store’s quirky yet Indian aesthetic. The concept is about travelling, getting different products from India and catering to Chennai.”

    Spread across 2,800 sq.ft., the store is done up in a way that defies the common perception of how a ‘designer’ and ‘niche’ store should be. From a hand-kart done up in a contemporary way to an antique watch to lanterns, the décor at the store extends an unmatched warm look and feel to it. The merchandise at the store is stocked in a way that it gives a feel of walking through an art gallery, which manages to charm you from the very first step that you take in. Explains Shahin: “It’s not your usual high fashion polished store. It is quirky, edgy and has an industrial look to it.”

    Citing the initial set of roadblocks and challenges faced to put the store together, which has a completely out-of-the-box look and feel to it, she adds: “Since we built MaalGaadi from scratch, our initial challenge was related to basic infrastructure. Acquiring various permissions and setting the platform right was the very first issue we were faced with. It took us nearly a year to get permission for the building itself. Then there were setbacks for plumbing and electricity lines as well.”

    On what makes shopping at MaalGaadi a different experience altogether, Shahin speaks from the feedback she has received from her customers: “As quoted by many of our customers, shopping at MaalGaadi is a wonderful experience.” All the products are displayed in a well-spaced out manner and the collections are displayed based on themes such as colour or texture rather than by genre, thus creating a less segregated shopping environment. She adds: “On the other hand, all our customers are very well informed about the concept of the store and the kind of products we house. From the feedback that we have got, most of our customers find it very intriguing to shop at MaalGaadi, since every corner has something interesting to look at.”

    A note on the interiors

    The store has an industrial and deconstructed look and feel, with quirky installations that add an element of fun to the interior. The furniture at the store is curetted with distressed wood and interesting elements of metal. The flooring and walls have been given a cement finish and the lighting is predominantly concealed LED lighting, with combinations of industrial and quirky pendant lights, which add a welcoming vibe. The main door is one of the vastly appreciated aspects of the store, which is a 10 feet tall solid wooden door having a distressed and worn-out texture, adorning a textured metal handle.

    Elaborating on the inspiration behind the store interiors, Shahin reveals: “The main inspiration was drawn from all the travel that we did prior to setting up the store and from the brand name itself. There was also quite a bit of research that was done before we decided on the concept of the store. We wanted to curate a store that Chennai has never seen before. It is seen to have an oddly welcoming vibe with elements of immense quirk and a secret story waiting to be unravelled around every facet of the store.”

    Talking about the stocking at the store, the mother-daughter set out to focus on names that weren’t already being stocked in other stores. Shahin shares: “We are always looking for talent that we can showcase at MaalGaadi. We primarily look at housing products or fashion that have an element of quirk or edge to them, so that they fit into the store’s sensibility. All our merchandise is carefully selected, so that the quality and finish is impeccable. We also try and make sure that all our products are exclusive to MaalGaadi in Chennai. In some cases where a particular product is available elsewhere, such products are retailed only because they are a strong example of what the store is about.”

    Names at MaalGaadi

    • Fashion: Arjun Saluja, Niki Mahajan, Nida Mahmood, Takla Makhan and Metaphor by Chandrashekar
    • Jewellery: Malleka
    • Home: Safomasi
    • Furniture: Anushri Jain
    • Time Wear: Rubato
    • Footwear: a.k.a. bespoke and ticket to timbuktu

    With less than a year into their journey, the learnings so far for the mother-daughter duo include the importance of maintaining an inventory and being coherent with accounts. Elaborates Shahin: “There are many things that we have learnt. For instance, the place and the manner in which a product is displayed make a big difference on sales. Stock check must be conducted on a regular basis; otherwise, things go missing very easily. Accounts and inventory have to be clearly maintained from day one!” As for the work force at the store, the duo accepts that it is a challenge to not only find good labor but also retain the existing staff. As Shahin puts it: “It is an ongoing process, as people keep leaving. The training process for each employee takes one month and they will be on probation for 6 months.”