Saravana Stores is one of the largest chain stores in Chennai. It is a common sight to see customers walking out of the store with 2 or 3 bags filled with their purchases. What started as a single store with humble beginnings has now grown to become a trusted departmental & grocery store with more than 5 branches across Chennai. The branch at Ranganathan Street, T. Nagar, Chennai was the first to be opened. S Rajarathinam is the founder-owner.
Currently, Sarvana Stores has branches at Purusawalkam, Chrompet and Padi among others. The Padi Store is said to be their largest in Chennai. The stores are now in multi storeyed buildings spread across several floors. They sell almost everything that a family would need -ranging from kitchen appliances, household goods & luggage accessories to clothes, groceries, fresh fruits, vegetables and gold jewellery. Given the throngs of loyal customers, the stores are perenially crowded and more so during festival seasons such as Diwali, Pongal, Christmas and Ramzan as well as on weekends.
Saravana Stores: Changing Chennai Shopping Experience
Saravana Stores’ first entry was in the early 70s as a simple shop for kitchen utensils in T. Nagar, Chennai. The store was started by one Mr. Shanmuga Nadar and his sons from a little known town called Tuticorin in Southern India. The first shop was called “Shanmuga Stores” occupying an area of 720 sq ft. The store sold everyday kitchen utensils and had a staff strength of 10. Over the next 10 years Sarvana Stores expanded to include textiles, readymade garments, kitchen appliances and jewellery. Around this time, the stores got bigger and larger. They employ nearly 10000 people and have a revenue to the tune of INR 22.3 billion ($330million) approximately.
Offshoots of Saravana Stores are Saravana Selvarathinam Jewellery and Saravana Thanga Nagai Maligai( gold jewellery stores) which are now thriving businesses. They deal exclusivly in diamond & gold jewellery.
Saravana Stores: What to buy?
As the store has a wide range of products, there is something for everyone.
Children’s clothes are one of the best buys in Saravana Stores. The clothes are placed in a heap in large containers categorized by age and gender. They are not neatly folded on shop shelves. It is possible to get good quality daily wear dresses such as cotton frocks, pants, t-shirts and shirts for children. The rates are very nominal. For, example, a daily wear cotton frock for children aged up to five is priced at INR 150/a piece ( $2- $3 ). A wide range of semi formal and formal dresses are also available.
Fashion jewellery attracts a sizeable crowd and one can always see young and old women checking out the immense collection and patiently selecting and choosing a piece of imitation jewellery. For example, jhimikis, also known as Jumkas in the North , which is traditionally a South Indian earring worn by Bharatnatyam dancers , are available in a variety of sizes. And they come with plain gold polish or embedded with several coloured stones. The choice is immense and sure to confuse any new customer. Again, the prices are very nominal based on the size and the workmanship.
Saravana Stores: Soft & Hard Luggage
A separate section exists for soft & hard luggage. The range includes clutches, small purses, large travel bags, sling bags, jute bags, grocery baskets, suitcases and hand luggage. Many of the purses are available in leather, rexine and cloth finishes and in various sizes and colors.
The clothes section for men and women is definitely worth a visit. Racks and racks of garments ,segregated by type and price range, make the selection process easier. A whole floor for sarees with prices ranging from INR 200 to more than INR 50000/ a piece in cotton, georgette, polyester and silk makes you wonder at the sheer diversity and range available for saree shopping in Chennai. The men’s section includes formal and informal wear and a wide variety of jeans of all sizes.
The store is also well known for its gold jewellery and an entire floor is dedicated to it in all their branches. Gold bangles and chains are available in plenty. The workmanship is intricate and unique. This section is very crowded during auspicious days and during those specific months when marriages are scheduled.
The store also has groceries, gift items, vessels, toys, stationary items and a wide range of consumer products.
Saravana Stores: Gold Bangles and Chains
Essential & basic items at very affordable prices has attracted a dedicated & loyal clientele. Since the shops are very crowded ,a visit during the early morning hours is recommended. So customers who would like to shop in silence can take advantage of the early hours.
The staff at Saravana Stores is worth a mention. As we enter the shop, we are greeted with a welcome smile and ‘Namaste’ by one of the numerous staff members. They hand us a placard which details floor wise organisation of the products. This is a helpful guide to quickly reach the floor and aisle specially if one has a clear idea as to what one wants to purchase. The young and friendly staff from rural Tamilnadu are always very helpful. They have also devised an effective billing system and with an efficient staff, they ensure minimal waiting time at the counters.
All branches of Sarvana Stores have street food outlets in or near the premises. One can stop by and enjoy tender coconut water, cups of corn, sugarcane juice, cakes, cutlets, tea or coffee in these places.
The stores have well planned parking spaces and a couple of Saravana Stores branches boast of multilevel automated car parking. However, it is wise to use public transport such as an autorickshaw to reach the stores. Autos are parked right outside the stores and after some bargaining they would take you to your destination.
Success of Saravana Stores
The success of Saravana Stores is a huge inspiration for many retail startups and small time sellers. Kishore Biyani, the founder of the Future Group, that manages Big Bazaar and Pantaloons, has stated in his autobiography that his inspiration to start his retail venture was Saravana Stores. Biyani has mentioned that he visited Saravana Stores several times to understand their business model before he started his retail venture.
Saravana Stores is a household name in Chennai and it provides a delightful shopping experience to several of its longtime customers. It is impossible to leave the stores without purchasing some thing. It is not an upscale destination for the discerning shopper but it is definitely the shopping destination for the comman man, woman & child.
Saravana Stores is an unforgettable Chennai shopping experience.