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Variety, its 'hall'mark

The 64-year-old Naidu Hall in Pondy Bazaar is donning a new look and adding variety to its shelves to woo customers

GETTING INTO Naidu Hall is not a problem — the sea of people will just carry you in and you would find yourself in the middle of the sari-blouse section before you realise it. Getting out is a battle though, and it takes some work to swim against the tide of determined shoppers. Usually stuffed to overflowing with eager bargain hunters, Naidu Hall is as much a part of the shopping tradition of crowded Pondy Bazaar as the sari stores on the next road.

The store is into its 64th year of selling clothes of all descriptions to the city's women, and recently added a men's and kids' wear section as well. "Though we are a family store, maximum space is dedicated to women's wear," says R. Aravind of Naidu Hall.

His grandfather, M.G. Naidu started Naidu Hall in 1939 as a blouse-tailoring unit in a garage. Once he built up a steady clientele, he moved to Pondy Bazaar and added ladies underclothing to his merchandise. "He did a lot of door-to-door selling, because ladies did not go out shopping back then," says Aravind. For a while, this remained their main business until they decided to add salwars, saris and Western wear so that they would have wider appeal.

Over the years, the store has spread out to its present built-up area of 15,000 sq. ft with five floors of unadulterated shopping — blouses, saris, salwar sets, undergarments, nightwear, accessories and Western wear. "Our core business is still blouses and undergarments, which are designed and tailored in-house," says Aravind. The sari section was introduced last October "on a trial basis," he says, and as the response was good, the store now stocks saris ranging from Rs. 200 to Rs. 7,000. "At any time there will be at least 6,000 to 8,000 salwar sets in the price range of Rs. 200 to Rs. 8,000 in my shop," he says proudly. And he claims that you can get the same designs that you'd see in boutiques on Khader Nawaz Khan for half the price in Naidu Hall. "They are the original designer labels, but at an affordable price."

The top floor is devoted entirely to western wear with a section for jewellery, bags, cosmetics and other accessories. "We're trying to draw in the 12 to 28 year-olds with our new look," he says. Naidu Hall has got a stylised logo and Delhi-based model Indrani Dasgupta on their print ads to "remove the idea that Naidu Hall is for old people," says Aravind. For the future, Aravind plans to export sari blouses to Sri Lanka, Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore as the store has a loyal customer base of expat Indians.

Naidu Hall has branches on Royapettah High Road in Mylapore and on Purasawakkam High Road, apart from the store in Pondy Bazaar.


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