Friday, 14 December 2012

Alang- the unlikely shopping mall.

pic Economic Times

The spike in demolition of ships has apparently had an interesting fallout in Gujarat. The area around Alang - graveyard to a large number of ships on their final voyage- has become a destination for a wide swathe of interested people looking to buy high quality things cheap. Amongst those shopping are hotel owners, factory owners, traders- and even homemakers and art collectors.

The Economic times reports that the 50-km road from Bhavnagar to the AlangSosiya ship recycling yard is seeing a growing stream of bargain hunters from all over India on an “unlikely shopping expedition”. A wide variety of items, from furniture, carpets, televisions, refrigerators, electricals, crockery and cutlery are being sold cheap. Many are high quality items; as the paper points out, shipowners use good quality to minimise repairs during the product's lifecycle. 

"Ship builders and owners do not take a chance with the quality of products they use and install on board. Anything that comes on ship has to be capable of performing in any marine conditions and also meet some of the global regulatory provisions," Vimal Vaja of Harsh Traders told the newspaper. 

Besides obviously for steel and heavy machinery, Alang has long been known in maritime circles as a place to buy cheap second hand navigational and operational equipment. Maritime training institutes, for example, source much of their requirements from there- hawsers, anchors, winches, lifeboats, safety equipment and miscellaneous deck and engine room equipment. But many non-marine industries also find Alang attractive, landing up from far away cities to buy generators, motors, welding equipment, purifiers, safety equipment and other industrial products.

That Alang has become a destination for shopping for the hospitality sector, especially for its kitchen and household equipment, is a relatively new development. From refrigerators and dishwashers to utensils, kettles, coffee makers, sandwich grillers, platforms, hot plates, gym equipment, dough and vegetable cutting machines, soda makers, ice making machines, Alang has it all- second hand, sure, but high quality stuff, sometimes designed to international standards. 

Farmers in the area, too, are raking it in, renting their land to shopkeepers and traders that need space to store and sell goods. The monthly rent for a small plot between 500-1,000 sq. yards has gone up to Rs5,000-7,000, the Economic Times says.  

The Alang Scrap Merchant Association has 600 trader-members, selling everything from a toothpick upwards. Nitin Modi, the Association’s Head, says, "We buy from ship breakers whatever makes business sense to us. It may be ice box, umbrellas, candles, knives, trays, jugs, stationery, binoculars, clocks, ladders, emergency lights, shower systems, silver foils, tennis tables, carom boards and even pianos."  

Everything is on sale at Alang, and throughout the year, it seems. And yes, you can- indeed, you must- haggle. 

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