India – a country known for its diversity in culture, food, language, landscape, and climatic conditions. This diversity is reflected in our Indian markets as well. One can shop local from the widespread bazaars or for posh brands from a plethora of shopping centers and malls in every town and city today. India is a shopper’s paradise if you know what, where, and how to buy what you need (or, maybe, even do not need!). India is known for its artisans who produce exquisitely crafted goods in hand-loom & textiles, furniture, handicrafts, jewelry, art et al. You dream it and you can have it. In addition, that does not even touch upon the sheer variety of shops and goods that cater to what you need for your daily life.
No matter where and which part of the country you are in, you will never find a dearth of markets to shop from. Shopping in India can be the most exciting and instructional experience if you know your cards and play them well. It is no secret that expats are treated just that little bit differently than locals in our haats and bazaars. As an expat, it can get tricky sometimes when exploring the local markets. Here are a few tips that will help make your shopping experience better in India:
- Shop Local
The Indian local markets are going to spoil you for choices. They are super cheap compared to the big malls with their glitz and glamour but you can find practically everything in these local markets. Every city and town has an array of shops that offer a variety of products from clothing, cosmetics, skin care, shoes, electronics et al. Look for the shops that have been around for generations – they are invariably low on flash but high on customer service and traditional values. By shopping local, you will not only be exploring the local markets and getting to know the local culture but also saving a huge amount of money in the process.
If you do not know how to bargain, you may not be able to shop local in India. Yes, bargaining is a vital skill when it comes to shopping in India. There are a number of shops that will be selling the same product and at different prices! To get the best price, you should be able to bargain. This is a game that the shops enjoy too – so don’t disappoint them by accepting the first price they throw your way. That is usually just a test question to see how you react. To learn how to bargain make a couple of trips to the market with a friend to see how it’s done and then remember that practice makes perfect.
3. Do your homework
Before making a final purchase decision, do a little research. Check for the quality, variety, and prices for what you are looking for in other shops around in the market. This lets you know the right price for the product you are buying. There are usually no fixed prices in the local shops. What you are looking to buy will most likely be available within a price band – so make your choice based on comparing against the options available.
4. Don’t look excited
We know how difficult it is to control your excitement when you come across that astonishingly inexpensive but delightful little stole or that genuine leather laptop bag. But remember that this is no less than a high-stakes poker game. Keep your game face on and hum and haw to show that this is still not quite there. Remember that your excitement could give you away and make it harder for you when it comes to negotiating the price. If one shopkeeper is not ready to negotiate, be ready to walk away. Chances are the same thing will be available elsewhere too.
5. You should know when and where to bargain
Not everything is cheap in India. Take, for instance, Pashmina or genuine handcrafted art pieces. Goods like these call for high skill and top-quality material – hence the higher price. Remember that if something looks too good to be true then it probably is! You will get what you pay for – a highly discounted or inordinately low price will almost certainly mean cheap materials and possibly fake goods.
6. Accept home deliveries only from reputable shops
In the local markets, you will find many shopkeepers offering to deliver your purchase directly to your home or even your home country. Accept this offer only from reputable shops in the market. Before making the decision run a background check on the shop, check for online reviews, or, even, ask for references.
7. Take advice from a local
If you cannot take along a local with you for shopping then at least have a chat with a trusted local before venturing into the markets. The local person can give you an estimate of the prices of the products you are looking to buy as well as the well-known shops in the area. They will also be able to talk you through the typical “tourist traps” and that will help you avoid the pitfalls of venturing into a new market.
That said, Indian markets can spoil you for choices but don’t get carried away. Remember that if you don’t find a good deal today, you can always visit the markets some other day and try your luck again. There will always be another shopping festival.