A recent Economic Times news item evoked a surge of nostalgia in me, while underlining the quirks of individual urban markets. India Gate, it said, is India’s largest market for ice cream.
Delhi’s India Gate is an arch-shaped War memorial, beneath which burns a flame in memory of the Immortal Soldier. But the big draw — aside from tourist interest — is not the memorial itself; it’s the wide lawns that line Rajpath, the road on which it stands, all the way from North and South Block down to the National Stadium. Behind the lawns, shallow tanks of water fed by the Jamuna river cool the area. This becomes the living room and picnic space for thousands of over-heated Delhi-ites on summer nights. (Years ago, I was frequently one of them.)
It’s busy with vendors, selling their wares from pushcarts, or from little vans powered by bicycles or motorbikes, or carried around in bags or baskets. Strings of jasmine. Balloons. Spicy snacks. And most importantly, ice-cream.
A reported 200 carts individually average Rs2,000 of business each night (about $45). At a total of about $1 mn per season (from the end of winter to the start of the monsoons), this apparently accounts for 11% of Delhi’s ice-cream sales. India Gate’s an important market for ice-cream companies.
Chennai’s Marina Beach apparently comes in second. But the other major cities – Bangalore and Mumbai – have no such concentrated sales points. Instead, the market is diffused over a number of gathering places and ice-cream parlors. (Wonder which other cities have these central gathering spots? What about Kolkata? I seem to remember Law Gardens in Ahmedabad as one, with really fabulous artisan ice-creams – particularly the fig-flavored variety. )