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Akshita Rana

IWB Intern

Here’s Why The Country Store’s Ankita Trusts Her Husband With Grocery Lists At Home

  • IWB Post
  •  January 10, 2018

“Jo pure Jaipur mein nahi milta, wo yahan milta hai.”

As our photographer puts it, any grocery item that you cannot find across entire Jaipur you’ll get at the Country Store! There we were! The store’s shelves narrated overseas tales, but we were there to unshelve Ankita Sharma’s story.

Ankita Sharma

Kicking Off The Journey

“It was actually my elder son’s zidd that gave me the idea of starting the store. My son is very fond of experimenting. Whenever we went abroad, he used to fill his plate with new dishes. So when we returned home from trips, he asked about that particular thing he had eaten in London, and I somehow arranged it through friends in Delhi.

So, I thought if I am taking so much trouble in traveling and getting the products, why not start a store meant for this only. Initially, we started it as an E-commerce, but that didn’t work out well because Jaipur didn’t have the market for groceries in E-commerce. So, The Country Store was born two years back, and our forte is imported goods.

Actually, there’s a very interesting story behind this name.  What happened was… I was sitting at a coffee shop. I was just thinking what to call it…and then I overheard this random guy singing Country Roads, Take me Home. I thought this would make a very interesting name and it worked!”

When A Woman Is The Boss

“Firstly, we have the longest working hours i.e. from 7 in the morning to 11 at night. So many times when the child is leaving for school in the morning mothers run short of eggs or bread or milk. In such a case they don’t have any place to go to. Keeping that in mind we open so early, and we remain open till late because many people get free from office at 10 or 11. Also, we don’t have any holidays. We work for all 365 days.

Secondly, the entire staff is very young. No one is older than 24. All of them are doing MBA or something else apart from working here. They work in three shifts, and they are extremely cooperative, creative and diligent. We are a family, and I’m proud of each and every one of them.

Thirdly, we have a Café and Toilets in our store, which you won’t see in any other grocery store in Jaipur. Moreover, the toilets have all the facilities required for babies and women. The perspective of a woman and a mother has made all the difference for my business. I guess I am the only female grocery retailer in Rajasthan. *smiling proudly*

Ankita Sharma

On Bumpy Road

“Initially, we had lots of difficulties in dealing with distributors. They are not really open to the idea of a woman doing such a business. So, it was troublesome to get a credit. They took us for granted. Moreover, it was very difficult for me to communicate with them. They all are very crude in their language, behavior, attitude, and then there was the male ego problem. I got a lot of discouragement from them: ‘Aap galat market mein ho,’ ‘Ye idea naya hai. Nahi chalega.‘”

Stocking the Shelves

“For Indian products, my assistant, Nisha chooses the products. For imported products, I do the selection. I don’t want to sell anything unhealthy. So, I don’t keep just anything in my store following the market trend. Everything is tasted by my staff or me. For example, you’ll see those mosquito patches in the market. They are very harmful to children and that’s why we don’t keep them. We do have creams like Odomos and all, but mosquito patches is a complete no!”

Vacations Cum Workations

“We invest a lot of money and time in research. We travel a lot in search of new things. We get a lot of products through permaculture which is a self-sustained society. They make their own cheese, their own coffee, and other things. So, we keep researching for such places. We’re promoting small-scale Indian markets which do not have a market outside Pondicherry and Chennai. Then, we’re bringing eggs from a farm in Gurgaon which is run by a lady. There bird hatching is done in the open. The birds are fed with good healthy food, and so the eggs are very healthy.

Also with my girl gang, every year I go to some new destination to learn new things and pick up the culture. We don’t stay in hotels. We stay at homes there, interact with the locals. Learning does make a lot of difference. Books didn’t teach me about food. It was the experience and travel that did.”

That One Idea That Made The Difference

“The cafe in the store was innovative. While shopping, there’s generally one person shopping while the other one keeps nagging. Because of a café that nagging thing ‘Jaldi karo! Jaldi karo’ is not there. And thinking from a perspective of a businesswoman, the longer you sit, the more you’re buying. Moreover, Jaipur didn’t have this culture of drinking coffee earlier. Now, we have people of 50 yrs who are appreciating coffee which is a very strange and good thing.”

Ankita Sharma

The Current Battle

“We’ve problems in case of product availability. All the main distributors and importers are in metro cities. So, when any product is launched, it first reaches these cities. We get it after a month. We have to travel to Delhi every 15 days to get the products. So, I have to first give the order to a distributor who then deals with the importers. So, this leads to delays.”

Behind The Scenes

“I am extremely blessed in this case. I leave the house at 10 in the morning & return around 11:30 at night. My husband manages everything at home. He takes care of the kids, their homework, their tuitions, extra classes, food…everything! Just to support me, he has shifted his office to our home, in the garage. So while working, he takes care of the kids as well. He is very understanding, and that’s very sweet of him.

My in-laws love to see me working. In fact, my mother-in-law has been in politics for 36 years and was the last MP from Congress. So the first agenda on her list was, ‘My bahu is not going to stay at home. You need to go out and work. You’re not meant for the kitchen.’

Family support is very important. Without their support, you can’t do anything.”

In Future Tense

“Right now, we’re thinking of opening a branch in Jodhpur.”

15

After all this serious talk, it was time to bring out our fun side!

If you were a product in this store, what would you be?

My favourite! There’s an ice cream called Mango Sau Rupay. Why? Because everybody loves it.

What basic difference have you seen in the way men and women shop here?

I would say that men are more interested in grocery shopping as compared to women. Trust me on this one! Women just pick up whatever they want and leave whereas men go easily. It’s easier to sell them products because they buy things even if they don’t want it.  *smiles*

Who takes charge of the grocery list at home?

My husband does that. *giggles* I hate cooking. He handles everything at home.

In what countries do you see your store traveling?

New Zealand and Australia. They’re my favorite places.

If there’s a universe store, what emotion will you pick up from the shelves?

Truth. Because that’s what people are lacking. Apart from that, I’ll stick to material things. I’d pick good olives, good cheese, good wine and things that have a history of the place from where it has originated.

Ankita Sharma

What are the things in your store that have a history?

I have a dip, Wingreen. It comes from a place where only women work. They’re growing their own things; they’re procuring everything from scratch. A lady who escaped abuse at home or a widow, they all work there. So, there’s a lot of emotion in that place.

There’s another very small product prepared by Mrs. Ray. She stays here in Jaipur. She is a widow, and she started her business at the age of 65. So she’s very commendable!

Photo Courtesy: Chhaveesh Nokhwal

This article was first published on October 18, 2016.

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