An iconic shop that dominates the Uplands Road, the Bombay Gaslight Store has a relationship with almost every kitchen in the city. Yo! Vizag delves into its history.
Bombay Gaslight Stores, Visakhapatnam : In about 1935, Saleh Bhai’s father migrated to the little coastal town of Vizag. Hailing from a family of businessmen, Saleh Bhai ventured into the sales and services of a commodity that was quite vital in the early 1940s. Gaslights and kerosene stoves reigned high at the time, because electricity hadn’t yet come in and gas supply was widespread and easily accessible.
In the initial days of his business, he used to travel, using local city buses to reach his customers at distant places like Kothavalasa, S. Kota and Pendurthi. He dealt exclusively with gaslights (commonly known as Petromax lanterns), kerosene stoves (the old pump-type model) and their spare parts. Having built up a sizeable customer base as a mobile salesman, in 1945 he set up a small shop in the Old Town area. “The first shop was just the size of a paan-shop” shares Saleh Bhai’s youngest son, Gulrez. Considering that all the gaslights, stoves and spares were sourced from Bombay – a city known back then for its quality stoves and lanterns – the shop was named ‘Bombay Gaslight Stores’.
From a small shop, the store diversified and grew to become a known name in the city. It came to the point when almost every Vizag kitchen had atleast a gadget or cutlery bought at this store. In fact, according to Gulrez who is manning the store currently, an elderly gentleman did come in and reveal that every item in his kitchen has been bought from Bombay Gaslight Store; as his family were customers since 1950!
Saleh Bhai’s salesmanship and reliability helped develop a fair share of goodwill. Aided by his sons Hamza, Habib, Mohamed and Gulrez, the store grew and eventually began dealing with all kinds of kitchen related appliances, crockery, cutlery, kitchenware, stainless steel and plastic goods. Basically anything that was needed in a household including doormats and carpets was made available here. Today, they also supply heavy-duty kitchen equipment and cookware to large scale enterprises like caterers, hoteliers and canteens.
The store’s USP was and still is their after-sales services. Any gadget or appliance bought from their store that needs servicing or repairs – even long after that warranty or guarantee period is over, is promptly attended to. Gulrez also shares that over time, the customers’ mindset has changed; and while in the past they would get all their doubts cleared by the personnel manning the store, today, they are more educated and aware. They also compare prices with everything online before spending.
From a travelling salesman to a chain of stores; Saleh Bhai, created a legacy with his Bombay Gaslight Store. Today it is a brand, which is being taken forward by his sons and grandsons with the same spirit of integrity, good business practices and value for customer satisfaction.