The sorry state of Olakha sub­urb

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When the ex­plo­sion of core Thim­phu town gave rise to nearby empty lands, Olakha promised a nice sub­urb. Peo­ple rushed to the lo­cal­i­ties when the home own­ers started erect­ing build­ings one af­ter another. Thim­phu City Cor­po­ra­tion pro­vided the ur­ban ameni­ties to make the lo­cal­ity part of the city.

The busi­nesses sprang up like wild mush­rooms in the lo­cal­ity pro­vid­ing many ser­vices to the cus­tomers. Shop­keep­ers lav­ishly in­vested to lure the cus­tomers. Peo­ple pass­ing through the lo­cal­ity would see glit­ter­ing sig­nage of show­rooms, sa­loons, sale out­lets, gyms, restau­rants, gro­ceries, bars, pri­vate of­fices, etc.

To­day, busi­nesses are de­prived of good in­come in the same lo­cal­ity which once promised good money. The shop­keep­ers are left re­gret­ting over their un­sold stocks for quite some time now. Some have even sold their shops and aban­doned the place to find bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties else­where.

“I’ve had big hopes of run­ning the busi­ness suc­cess­fully here. But af­ter two years, I’ve hardly broke even the in­vest­ment I made,” says Kin­ley who has sold the bar he used to run in the area. “I’m mov­ing to core town area. I cus­tomers are more there.”

Kin­ley’s in­stincts co­in­ci­den­tally draws the mar­ket re­al­ity. That cus­tomers still flock to the main mar­ket in Thim­phu for shop­ping.

But go­ing by the per­cep­tions of the cus­tomers, one rea­sons why Olakha doesn’t at­tract cus­tomers is be­cause of its so­cial rep­u­ta­tion that’s been tainted in the re­cent years. The cases of rob­beries, late night fights, mur­ders, un­safe neigh­bor­hood, dirty sur­round­ings, and hap­haz­ard de­signs of the build­ings might be the rea­sons for the cus­tomers to stay away.

If cus­tomers from other ar­eas avoid Olakha for such rea­sons then why do the denizens of Olakha shop not from their own lo­cal­ity? The hard fact might be the price!

“To be frank, most of the shop­keep­ers buy their stocks be­low MRP from the whole­sale shops in the main town and then sell the goods at MRP or higher here at Olakha. May be that is the rea­son why we don’t get cus­tomers,” said a shop­keeper run­ning a gro­cery who didn’t wanted to be named.

“But I think my busi­ness is do­ing OK. I’ve some loyal cus­tomers who are res­i­dents of Olakha.”

Sadly, some gro­ceries now bear prom­i­nent tags on their front view “For Sale”.

Some wish they could get some loans to re­fur­bish their shops but to no avail. Oth­ers feel that they would give their busi­ness li­censes on hire.

“It is bet­ter to give the li­cense on hire and then earn good in­come from hir­ing rather than strug­gle your­self to make lit­tle,” said Lhamo who has a bar li­cense.

Veg­etable mar­ket in Olakha is also de­prived of cus­tomers since its lo­ca­tion doesn’t have park­ing fa­cil­ity for the cus­tomers. Although the ven­dors are mak­ing swift sales it would dou­ble their in­come if they could at­tract cus­tomers from nearby res­i­dents.

Thim­phu Thromde says veg­etable mar­ket doesn’t fall within their ur­ban plan­ning. So it is left for the pri­vate owner to look af­ter.

Win­ter seems to bring hope to the lo­cal­ity. With stu­dents com­ing to Thim­phu to spend their va­ca­tion the lo­cal­ity get lit­tle crowded. This might be an ad­di­tional work for the city cor­po­ra­tion to clean up more waste but for shop­keep­ers it’s time to up their sales and earn more.

“I made good in­come in win­ter. But in sum­mer sales are hardly made,” said a 45 year old busi­ness­man who runs a res­tau­rant.

How­ever, peo­ple from other ar­eas of Thim­phu do flock to a place dur­ing all times of the year. That is Shea­ree Square. It is a shop­ping com­plex which em­u­lates the shop­ping struc­tures in Bangkok with es­ca­la­tors and el­e­va­tors. But the main rea­son it at­tracts the cus­tomers is be­cause of its in­door park for chil­dren and fam­i­lies to hang­out.

As Olakha seeks re­demp­tion the other sub­urbs seems to have in­her­ited its dis­ease.

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