Tuesday, October 25, 2005














FE Specials

FE Education

Urban Property

Monthly Roundup

Special on Logistics


Saturday Feature

Asia/South Asia





57th Republic Day of India






Site Search



The concept of hypermarkets in Dhaka
Dr. Shihabuddin Mahmud

          The economic restructuring due to globalisation has enormous impact not only in the national economy but also in the physical reshaping of our contemporary urban centres. The two tendencies namely economy and communication have been mutually reinforcing such that the world has become much more interdependent in its parts and therefore, the concept of marketplaces are also transforming with a similar pace. The concept of bazaar is one of the classic defining features of an Islamic town, the commercial 'spine' of the urban fabric linking mosques; these are also the shops selling goods that are always grouped together in an open air marketplace in a designated area in the central location in any habitation. However, the style and look have changed and still changing much faster than ever, where it becomes more indoor than outdoor. A very common phenomenon in many urban centres now is those transformations of the old dwellings into market places that were prestigious residential areas. Similarly, traditional societies are equally changing into more modern societies where they have to make a balance and compromise. Dhaka as a Muslim city with its own unique characteristics has substantial amount of traditional buildings in old centre that have transformed into commercial enterprises unlike their traditional Souk or Bazaar concept. On the other hand, the mushroom growth of hypermarket or big departmental stores in the new development areas in Dhaka has an impact in the life style of different income groups that changed the consumer's habit substantially. On the one hand, these transformations of the dwelling units for commercial activities are to satisfy the local people and also a survival strategy for them. The duality between modernity and traditionally also affecting for loosing identity
The genesis of modern
The emergence of urban centres and market places dates back to the Greek market place Agora which grew out of a pedestrian oriented culture and architecture. Early marketplaces had facilities related to commerce, government and places of assembly and these places also created an image for the city in which they are located. Literally these places became the centres for various activities including business, trading and commerce. As all the activities in Greek sites concentrated around the Agora, it became the centre of life. The open space of Agora thus was widely used with a variety of activities and functions where people met, talked and conducted civic activities and literally, became the genesis of modern marketplaces of today.
The buildings of Republican Forum (509-27 B.C.), almost in the contemporary period represented the commercial and governmental centre that increased their political power and image. Today, although the same concept persist that is to say the city centres are the places for all economic, political and social activities, many new concept for shopping and commerce has been added with new dimensions of globalisation and consumer market societies.
In the course of time, new building materials like iron and glass have been integrated into construction process, which brought a totally new look and a revolution. The shopping malls started to appear with new look and style and also provided recreational facilities along with shopping and marketplaces. In 1867, when Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was opened for the first time, it became the symbol of Milan's high society, the place to see and to be seen. It was not only a place for people to walk but also a place to go for shopping and relaxing in one of the cafes and meeting with friends. With the invention of automobile (In recent years, automobiles are discouraged in the downtown centres due to lack of parking facilities in most of the European cities. However, they are also trying to find solutions for making the downtown most accessible for it citizens and also to segregate the pedestrian and automobile traffics at least in the urban centres) and underground trains, these downtown centres have reshaped and transformed its physical entity once again.
As far as Islamic markets are concerned, three specific kinds of structures can be recognised, such as a network of covered streets Souks; a securely gated and covered edifice called as khans; and the urban equivalent of the caravanserai (Caravanserai are places for merchants or businessman who used to travel for trade and these places for economic activities were placed in the well organised routes in Islamic cities, in later time, khans or qaysariyya, an oblong hall, roofed and colonnaded structure were also built for similar purposes). Any Muslim settlement with a market also had a number of hammams and a congressional mosque, which used to be the landmark of the marketplace. However, the Islamic bazaar is the defining features of an Islamic town, the commercial backbone of the urban fabric linking mosques. In some Muslim cities, the bazaar is the open-air marketplaces in a designated area whereas in some cities it is enclosed space with roof and vaults.
Islamic markets, suq, and bazaar of the silk merchants
The downtown market place is the most active part of Islamic cities, an arena of public commerce fulfilling both social and economic functions. The segregation of goods and trades, are the characteristic of Islamic markets and also of classical origin is vastly observed in medieval Byzantium. In one of Ibn Battuta's record for Islamic market places describes
" Constantinople in 1331has spacious paved bazaars were organised strictly according to what was being sold. Each bazaar had gates that were closed at night in Ottoman Turkey. Its form is derived from classical basilica with domes and its name is said to commemorate a covered market built in Anticoch by julious Ceasar, called Kessaria by Byzantines".
In the time of Byzantine successor, markets were usually located around the congregational mosque in precisely the same arrangement and serving the same functions, as had the classical Agora with its surrounding public buildings and colonnade market streets. With the effect of climate, the Islamic cities were shaped over streets. The streets named "souks" are the main spaces where the urban outdoor activities took place. In time, souk was covered above and became a "covered bazaar" which still function as a market place in the traditional city centres such as Istanbul, Buhara and Isfahan. Furthermore, souk is a major means of communication and the souk connecting all those civic and economic buildings such as hammam, caravanseri, and congressional mosque in an Islamic city.
It is important to realise that, the concept of hammam, caravanseri, and congressional mosque all are transforming along with its souk as a rapid manner and the charm of those functions has been lost in many cities where Dhaka is exceptions. Today, the Persian Chaharsuq and Turkish Carsi only mean the marketplace rather than its internal meaning with all those functions that was once the life of Islamic cities.
transforming in Dhaka?
To bring all activities under the same roof and making hypermarkets and covered shopping malls are the fashion of the skyline of any cities of the western world. People now have been segregated from the urban centres as new satellite towns with all residential facilities have emerged in the 1st world cities. In the Third world cities this scenario is little different. A similar activity for moving out from the city centre for a better residential area is also a desire for many families who are residing in the traditional centres now becoming possible due to a number of interrelated factors. The value of the traditional buildings has not fallen down in many cases as these buildings are transforming into marketplaces which ultimately generating more income for the owners. Furthermore, in many cases these transformations of the function of the dwellings are much easier and cost effective than reconstruction. These result in the transformation of these dwellings into marketplaces or make rental units for tenants and the owners to move to the new development areas of the Dhaka city.
In Dhaka, the transformation situation for making covered shopping malls is quite a recent phenomenon. Now the rapid construction of the new of shopping centres especially for grocery and green vegetables can be noticed (which used to be open air markets in some designated areas by the municipality before). These centres are particularly concentrating in the high-income neighbourhoods such as, Gulshan, Banani and Dhanmondi. A number of shopping centres, which has opened, recently has similar pattern where the main objective is to provide car parking facilities and shopping for food items and particularly attracting women households as a target group. In the context of Bangladesh, majority women especially from the middle and high income families do not go for green shopping/grocery as the markets are crowded with men and religious obligations also do not permit to mix up with opposite sex.
The physical environment also does not encourage women households to the bazaar areas. In such bazaars, the prices are not fixed especially in the fish sections and it can be difficult for women to bargain among male buyers also. Now the covered space provides good shopping environment and a variety of food stuff with no bargain tension, besides the women can also choose all the food and other daily necessary items by themselves. Here, the shoppers do not have to carry a bag for shopping as they are provided both shopping bags and trolleys in a comfortable environment and air-conditioning.
In the old part of Dhaka, street transformation from residential to commercial one was effected by user's interferences and ambitions. Residential streets in various locations transform into commercial streets and this transformation developed gradually until it became a very well known street that became the core of a central commercial area composed of connected parallel and perpendicular streets. Until the early 70s, the general impression of the street was still residential but most of the ground floor transformed totally into shops or some business enterprises.
In Dhaka for example many shopping centres are the replica of some shopping centres elsewhere and the popularity and high turnover are prime factors for demolishing the old dwellings and building up multi storied shopping malls with all facilities. The transformation of the front side of traditional dwellings was perhaps an automatic phenomenon, which is common in any cities. Now it became a fashion even in pure residential areas in Dhaka, that the owner keeps an option for making the ground and front portion of the buildings for any sort of enterprises.
Positive and negative aspects of shopping centres
In Dhaka, the concentration of shopping and bazaar areas were in the old centre of the town, now it is visible almost everywhere. One of the major reasons for such malls is to provide pleasant shopping facilities and to decentralise people form the city centres and to make the city core exclusively administrative and banking districts. Transformation by regenerating a number of economic activities in our old centres, the influx of poor migrants are still concentrated within the proximity of the old centre of Central Business District (CBD). However, small shopping centres or hypermarkets are giving new dimensions for Dhaka and creating sub centres for its ever-growing population. There exist a number of reasons for these hypermarkets to grow and develop so rapidly and these are as follows;
1. The new hypermarkets in Dhaka are located exclusively in the high-class neighbourhoods to attract a particular income group. The environment created in such a manner that it is apparently not accessible to the poor people. Besides a prejudice also work for the middle-income people that the prices of the goods in the markets are expensive;
2. A positive aspect for shoppers is now they can get all necessary household items including green grocery under the same roof with reasonable prices and therefore, no need for travelling far that is misuses of time, money and energy.
3. In Dhaka the number of working ladies has increased and women now are also interested to do their shopping especially green groceries on their way back home and not to depend on their husbands;
4. One advantage is there is no tension of bargaining and customers can choose their items by themselves from the selves and as prices for all items are fixed, one can easily buy according to his budget, plus satisfaction level increases due the feeling of not being cheated;
5. The shopping in such environments with all facilities encouraged women for shopping and in some shopping centres there are facilities for children recreation within the building, so mothers can shop while the kids can also get them busy with recreation;
6. Another positive point is the customers can change their goods even after they have purchased within a time limit plus, for the food items there are expiry dates and strictly controlling the hygiene by packaging the products.
7. Timetable for shopping is also long hours till the mid night so the families can have their daily glossaries at night in a suitable time.
8. These shopping centres are also providing food court facilities, where the families can have quick meals.
The image of Islamic markets are now transforming not only by its physical shape and look but also by the nature of the modern consumer societies who are identical in almost every cities despite cultural and religious differences. In the past in Muslim cities the market places were exclusively male dominated but now they are more popular among the women and children. The mushroom growth of big shopping malls and hypermarkets are the most prominent feature in a city landscape that provides not only shopping facilities but also the recreation and entertainments for every age group. Therefore, the concept of the market places of the Islamic cities has also gradually transformed where a duality between tradition and modernity is visible.
The current banking system of providing credit cards further accelerated these hypermarket activities as people can buy things even they don't have cash in their hands. Now the question is up to what extent the consumer society of our Third World urban citizen are coping up with the new trend? Up to what extent they are sacrificing their tradition with modernity and up to what extend they are able to keep up with their own identity?
The writer is Assistant professor, Department of Interior Design, King Faisal University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


  More Headline
The concept of hypermarkets in Dhaka
Accounting for foreign currency transaction
Billboard monster in Dhaka city

Print this page | Mail this page | Save this page | Make this page my home page

About us  |  Contact us  |  Editor's panel  |  Career opportunity | Web Mail





Copy right @ financialexpress.com