Firayalal Nxt, a new branch of the shopping complex, at Argora Chowk in Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
A touch of Delhi, a slice of Mumbai and a feel of Calcutta. That’s perhaps what Archi is in 2014.
Archi, or Ranchi as it was once known as, is now a far cry from its tribal-kingdom past. The city is exploding horizontally — beyond Mahatma Gandhi Road (Main Road) to places such as Kanke, Argora, Hinoo, Hotwar, Dhurwa and other pin codes — and vertically, with high-rises, exclusive malls and multiplexes.
For instance, one of the best apparel stores Firayalal, after which Ranchi’s best-known roundabout on Main Road got its name before it officially became Albert Ekka Chowk, opened its new-age branch Firayalal Nxt, in Argora Chowk on Sunday.
There’s more. Lalpur, which already has Pantaloons, from Saturday has the second branches of Reliance Trends and Reliance Footprints. Both mega stores, which opened their first outlets on Main Road earlier, looked elsewhere when it came to their second ones.
It’s a far cry from around 10-15 years ago, when Kanke residents told people they were “going to Ranchi” if headed towards Main Road. Most parts of the capital would be deserted after 7pm — 6pm in the winter months.
But now, the “shahar se bahar (out of the city)” localities sport urban makeovers. Kanke Road, which got Reliance Mart seven years ago, has Fab India, VLCC, Bata exclusive, Koyo (a kiddie brand), auto showrooms of Ford and Mahindra and AC family restaurants Chasm-e-Shahi, Hot Lips and many more. It is also a VIP residential address.
Bariatu, which had only state-run RIMS earlier, now has over a dozen health centres, nursing homes and diagnosis centres.
Across the city, franchisees of KFC, Yo China, Dominos Pizza, Pizza Hut and Café Coffee Day are coming up. A coffee war will brew, with Barista Lavazza making its foray. Also, in recent years, residents have grown used to shopping at hypermarket chains such as Big Bazaar, Reliance Trendz or Pantaloons or watching films in plexes such as Eylex, Glitz, Fun Cinemas, Popkorn or Plaza.
Asked what the city has that it did not 15 years ago, Jayant Munjal, owner of Firayalal Nxt, said: “Ranchi has come of age. If you look around, mushrooming of malls means business houses are catering to people’s changing tastes. Every establishment is scripting its own success story, which means the city has created opportunities for growth.”
Partha Das, with Mumbai based MaRS Monitoring and Research System Pvt Limited, listed shopping complexes, plexes, big-brand showrooms and some expanded roads as the signs of the city’s growth.
Anju Sharma, lecturer with Shaheed Sheikh Bhikhari College of Education, Pithoria, said Ranchi offered more choices now. “Expanded roads, shopping complexes that offer a range of products and suit all pockets, many teleservice providers, multiplexes and places of extracurricular activities for kids are good signs,” Sharma said.
On what it lacks, Munjal said: “A city in an expansion mode undergoes certain problems. In Ranchi, public transport and parking are problems that must be tackled fast.”
Agreed Das. “Public commute, traffic, parking places and tourist spots did not improve as expected,” he said.
Besides the terrible troika of traffic, commute and parking, Sharma listed encroachment, deteriorating safety of women and depleting water table as downsides. “If we work on these, Ranchi will be one of the finest cities of India. It has great charm,” she added.
Bobby, an advocate with Ranchi civil court, was less effusive. “In the past 15 years, Ranchi has become a concrete jungle. Facilities have increased, but the city failed to copy the metros in certain basics.” Asked what they were, he said: “Higher education opportunities and public transport. Unlike other capital cities, much of Ranchi goes to bed by 8.30pm. In the years to come, we need an underground metro for intracity travel, more air connectivity and trains.”
Which urban infrastructure does Ranchi need the most?