The sorry state of Olakha suburb
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.