Fish Vends - No Longer A Fishy Tale
Karnataka Today|December 2017

New vends are redefining the way fish is sold in the fish loving city of Mangaluru. M Raghuram tell us more

M Raghuram
The legendary ‘as filthy as a fish market’ saying is on its way out. Mangaluru - the coastal city which is known for its hot fish curries and fries is undergoing a total transformation on how it handles its fish sales. Once the preserve of a stinky, filthy market in the heart of the city, then in similar sub markets across the city, today it is sold in ambience that is similar to a lifestyle store at a mall!

Young entrepreneurs of the city have taken the traditional business of a few reserved public spaces to the next level with sterling air-conditioned interiors, and ample seating space in high end residential areas for the convenience of the customer. Here the fish is displayed in designer trays full of ice and stored in airtight nitrogen flushed containers to prevent odour. These outlets even provide home delivery of “dressed” and in some cases, cooked fish!

“There was a time when people used to come to the conventional market before they bathed. They found coming to fish market was such a dirty job that they felt like taking a bath after they visited it. While municipal fish markets still present the same picture as they have for the last century, I feel many consumers wanted better places and ways to buy their fish. When I opened my AC outlet in the city, people laughed at me saying fish in my shop costs a bomb but when I displayed my rate card outside, their jaws dropped” said Mohammad Iqbal of Bikarnakatte in the city.

The Municipal fish markets have seen fewer footfalls ever since the new generation fish vendors started setting their modern units. Rasheed, another new generation fish vendor had this to say, “One of my new customers - an IT guy told me that he was a die-hard fish buff. He would walk gingerly on the slippery and unevenly paved floor, passing through the heaps of fish waste, to buy his favourite fish from the stock that was laid on a piece of plastic sheet on the floor compromising safety and hygiene all at once. But despite all the new generation hygiene systems that I have put together in my outlet, he expressed doubts about the quality of ice that I used to cover the fish and asked if the ice was produced with treated water?”. This is the kind of awareness that customers bring to my shop these days, Rasheed adds and asks the million dollar question, “how can we still sell fish in the conventional way”?

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