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A mall in the backwaters

Once a month,people in the remote islands along Kerala’s backwaters of Alappuzha keep their shopping bags ready when they hear the familiar hoot of the Triveni,their floating supermarket....

Written by Shaju Philip | Kochi |
July 18, 2010 12:20:07 am

Once a month,people in the remote islands along Kerala’s backwaters of Alappuzha keep their shopping bags ready when they hear the familiar hoot of the Triveni,their floating supermarket.

The floating shop,launched a year ago by the state-run co-operative Consumerfed,has brought the experience of modern shopping straight to the islanders,who otherwise have to ferry across to shops on the mainland.

The idea of the ‘Floating Triveni Super Store’—painted in the red-and-white colours of Consumerfed’s branded Triveni outlets—took off from the practice of ferrying provisions on lean canoes through the canals and backwaters of Kuttanad,a low-lying region.

As Alappuzha has a tradition of converting the kettuvallams (wooden vessels) into houseboats for the tourism industry,moulding the floating store was easy.

The mall,built at a cost of Rs 58 lakh,was raised over a boat and has a floor space of 1,200 square feet. The boat has a 40-HP engine and a solar power system to run the billing counter. The Triveni’s racks has everything you would find in a regular supermarket.

The floating mall starts its day at 8 a.m.,when it is ready to allow customers in. After staying anchored at one point for five hours,the store moves to its next destination,navigating through canals. The shopping hours end at 6 p.m. and the store cruises to its destination.

“At present,we visit 60 points spread over 12 panchayats and a small region of Alappuzha municipality. We cannot cover more points because of the difficulty involved in navigating the vessel through canals. However,we ensure that the store visits a fixed location once a month,” says store manager A K Anoop.

He says 120 people,on a daily average,come to a particular shopping point and the store’s daily business is in the range of Rs 25,000 to 30,000. A day before anchoring at a place,the boat’s staff inform regular shoppers about Triveni’s arrival.

“The mall could be anchored either at a boat jetty or at any location where the vessel can be brought close to the land and anchored to coconut trees. At any point,we allow only 20 people on the shop floor for reasons of safety. And since there is no cold storage,we do not sell vegetables,” says Anoop.

“Before the arrival of the floating store here,I had to go either to Alappuzha or Changanassery to shop from a super market,” says Jacob Cheriyan,who belongs to Pulinkunnu.

“We wait for the arrival of the store and the prices are reasonable too. Since I live along the backwaters,I can directly step into the shop when it docks here,” says S Anjaneyan,who comes from Thakazhi.

Consumerfed plans to get another floating store to cater to remote villages.

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