Did you know that ‘Maidan Market’ is actually a popular nickname used to refer to ‘Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy market’, which is the official name of this sports bazaar. “It was inaugurated and named after the then Chief Minister of Bengal nearly 50yrs ago. It came to be known as maidan market because of the maidans near it where people play cricket, football, etc” – said Sk. Nazimuddin, Joint Secretary of Maidan Market and also the owner of Raja Sports.
Interestingly, this market was earlier known as ‘hawker’s market’ because Dr. B.C.Roy had made this market to provide a decent place for the roadside hawkers to sell their products. “In the beginning, the rent for a shop in this market was Rs.20 per month because the people were very poor but now ironically no one in this market is poor” rattled a salesperson who did not want to be named.
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This sports haven is located in close proximity to the heart (Park Street) and lungs (maidans) of Kolkata. For a city that has cricket as its religion and football as its faith, here, Maidan market is a shrine of sports/fitness goods and equipments that is visited by every sports fanatic of Kolkata at some point of their existence. Getting here is easy, by most means of public transport but if you have a private vehicle, especially a four-wheeler, parking could be a bit of a problem. Shops here remain open from 9:30 a.m – 8:30 p.m. on every day of the week except Sundays, giving you enough time to shop till you drop.
Despite spreading over an expanse of only one floor, it is big enough to be considered as ‘the biggest sports market in Asia’ owing to the plethora of sports goods offered here, under one roof. Here, there are approximately 450 shops hustled together, out of which almost 80% of them cater to only sport items.
One can’t say that they would have a pleasant walk around this place like they would at a mall or even at New Market for that matter. Although crammed and clustered, yet it is the first place that comes to mind for the ‘aam janta’ during a sports necessity or if in need of any team jersey when planning a cheering trip to Eden Gardens or Salt Lake Stadium and the likes.
Anything to do with the maidan is guaranteed to have something to do with sports and Maidan market has long catered to everything related to sports and fitness. You name it they have it. This market is an ideal place for all your sport related needs and the cherry on the cake, as quoted by a wholesaler here, “Isse sasta kahi nahi milega.”- Pijush Karmakar. He even went on to tell a customer purchasing rackets from his shop, “daam kum maal bhalo”. This is the level of confidence that they have in their products.
Squeezed around the edge of busy Chowringhee, this market has many entrances, and once inside, you will be spoilt for choices. If you are not familiar with the place, you might just find yourself roaming in circles in search of the desired product. Here, you get cheap things at good quality and the variety is commendable. Jerseys, bats, balls, nets, sports shoes and sneakers are common sights here but you might be surprised to know that about 20 % of the shops in the market even sell readymade traditional Indian garments like saree, lehenga, salwar suits, sherwani etc.
The advent of big sport brands and discounts available in them do not affect this market because they cater mostly to the mass that want to wear a jersey of their favourite IPL team but do not want to spend luxuriously on it. Another interesting fact about this place is that despite catering to most sport items, they do not sell golf kits. The demand for which is very less in middle class Kolkata families. Pradip Roy, owner of a shop in this market said– “middle class people form the majority in Kolkata and they would not want to spend Rs. 3500-4000 on a cricket bat when they have a choice of spending Rs.300 or a little more and getting a good quality bat that would last for a long period of time.” He is into this business since 10yrs and says that whenever there is an IPL, ISL etc match held in town, there is a surge in sale of goods in the market.
“This is the largest sports market in Asia. We have about 250 shops only for sports, under one roof. Thailand also has a market that sells sports goods but they only have about 40-50 shops together.” – Pradip Roy of Moon Palace.
The love for football runs in the blood of almost every young boy of Kolkata and if maidan market were to stop catering to the sport needs of these football frenzied youngsters then Kolkata would have to crush its enthusiasm for the sport and football would then become the luxury of the rich.
The array of things available here include trophies, mementoes, badges, uttorios, medals, gloves, bats, balls, knee pads, helmets, dumbbells, exercise bikes, yoga mats, yoga costumes, and the list goes on and on. The price ranges from Rs.2 – Rs.35000 or more. Price is based on the quality provided. They don’t only sell sports goods but some shops like Rocky Sports, also manufacture jerseys while some others repair sport items such as damaged balls, bats, gloves, badminton rackets etc.
It is interesting to watch a jersey being made in front of you, we spoke to a jersey maker from Rocky Sports, who said “We get orders from schools, colleges, clubs etc whenever there is a tournament. They provide us with a t-shirt and we then make a DTP of the logo or name from the computer after which we apply colour on it by first making a negative and drying it and then putting it on an instrument called skin. After few more steps the final product is ready. Per letter on the jersey cost Rs.5 whereas per alphabet cost Rs.10 but of course customers bargain and lessen the price if they take in bulk.” – Raju Baidya.
Kedar Chowdury, a salesman of this market who has been working here since 29yrs, and hails from Bihar, gave us a detailed account of the goods available in the shop he works for, Raja Sports. “The sports we cater to are, cricket, throw ball, carom, football, table tennis, volleyball, swimming, gymnastic, basketball, handball, lawn tennis, badminton, etc. The variety of products available are bats, balls, thigh pads, gloves, elbow guard, cricket brief, carom board (match board), coins, striker, net, jerseys, sport shoes, hockey stick, table tennis bat, socks, swimming costumes, gymnastic costumes, racket, shuttle cock, etc. The price for these items ranges from Rs.30 – Rs. 35000 … In Rs. 100, one can purchase a jersey set and a ball.”
“When Modi destroyed money, we had to switch to Paytm.” – said a source who did not want to be named. Some of the shops in the market have started using Paytm and card swipe to deal with the present cash crunch situation. Others who are not so tech savvy are finding it a little of a hassle to adopt to change. “Due to the present scenario, the market is experiencing a drastic fall in business as sports is not a necessity like food and clothing.” Said the same source.
Pijush Karmakar of Goodwill sports, has been in this market since 25yrs and deals in swimming costumes and equipments like pool boy, kick board, hand paddle, caps, goggles, arm bands, life jackets, boards, etc. He says that during summer, he gets good sale but when the swimming season is over, he copes up by selling the sport equipments that are in rage for that particular season.
Almost everyone in this market boast about it being cheap and best for sports. So if you have a mini Sourav Ganguly, or Leander Paes (and the likes) in making, this is where you need to head to gear them up.
Pictures: Tuhin Roy