The six and a half decades old store in Visakhapatnam

karachiwala, visakhapatnam
Karachiwala, Vizag

How the grit, gumption and business acumen defeated the demons of getting uprooted from one’s own native land, forced by the Indo-Pak Partition? Our guest-writer G V Ramesh traces the remarkable history of Karachiwala charted in Visakhapatnam by the resolute will of one man.

It was a great victory for an indomitable human spirit against all odds. The heart-wrenching Indo-Pakistan partition in 1947-48 had seen one of the biggest demographic shifts in the history of mankind. It uprooted many a family from their native-lands on either side of Indo-Pak border in the Indian sub-continent then. One such family belonged to Mr. Nihalchand Chaturani, a native of Sindh province of present-day Pakistan. Forced by the partition, he had to bring his family out of the once safe confines of Karachi. He brought them in 1949 to Visakhapatnam – really a distant land from Sindh – as one of his cousins had earlier settled in here in the stevedoring business.

Mr. Nihalchand wanted to try his luck in the family profession – business. He started small, and opened a tiny shop on the main road near Kurupam market to sell household provisions in 1952, and named it as ‘Karachiwala Stores’, which, in due course of time, has become the house-hold name for quality provisions in Visakhapatnam. His business acumen coupled with hard work started paying off, and it soon became a big hit. The main reason for its success was that he could identify the potential existing in the area of provisions for North Indians and others, who were not natives of Andhra. Visakhapatnam being an industrial town even during 50s and 60s had a sizeable population of Gujaratis, Punjabis, Bengalis, Tamilians and others from across India; and those communities were finding it hard to get domestic supplies suiting to their tastes from the local merchants. Having identified that opportunity, Mr. Nihalchand did not look back. His shop specialised in meeting the requirements of the rainbow-communities apart from the locals.

In the early 80s itself the store management could foresee that the city’s growth was going to be highly restricted near Harbour area, and it would grow rapidly towards Visakhapatnam up-lands and Siripuram, the place for the neo-rich, famous and upper-middle-class, who were their major clientele. As a result, a swanky facility with ‘shelf-shopping’ experience – the first of its kind in Vizag then – in Siripuram area, was set up in ’85. The original store was closed in 1995. Karachiwala‘s emphasis on personal touch, good quality and right quantity has been keeping it in good stead even now in spite of so many large malls in Visakhapatnam sprouting in every nook and corner.

While a Marwari may see a pack of Moria rice; a Gujarati Patel the custom-made papads from the interiors of Gujarat; a Malayali the mouth-watering authentic Banana-wafers or an American his favourite fruit-juice pack in Karachiwala; yours truly could see the grit, the never-say-die spirit, the gumption and the business acumen that defeated the demons of partition, of uprooting from one’s native to not only succeed but to have left an indelible imprint on the physical, emotional and temporal dimensions of Visakhapatnam, really a very distant city from the Sea-shore of Sindh. I could see that especially in the delightful look of Mr. Pritamdas Chaturani, son of Mr. Nihalchand, who along with his brothers and nephews, is running it now.

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