Modern traditions and the best of both worlds

Fruits from across the world

Every time I go shopping in Hong Kong, I cannot help but smile about how walking around a supermarket can take you on an interesting trip around the world.

And I don’t mean simply where the products comes from. With supply chains having become so global, many of us would have probably bought something that is made from Nigerian ingredients, processed in Ireland, packaged using materials made in China, stored in a refrigerator manufactured in Korea and marketed by an American company. (Which, by the way, is amazing in itself).

What I mean is what the products represent. Catering to expats, the shelves of many supermarkets in HK are stocked with an array of products and brands reflective of so many different cultures.

So, the dried squid snack from Japan hangs opposite the Moroccon spiced cous cous. The Dutch veal escalopes lie next to the Australian lamb loin. Marie biscuits sit in an aisle close to the freezer housing Grands buttermilk ‘biscuits’.

And whether I am looking for pappads (to accompany an indulgent Indian meal), or Libby’s pumpkin (to make pumpkin pie using my American flatmates’ recipe), or thinly sliced Japanese oumi beef (to satisfy a craving for shabu shabu, a love developed in Tokyo), or Trattoria bruschetti (a snack first discovered on the streets of Rome); it is all easily available here.

It really is quite fascinating.

Shopping here is pretty convenient too…if you rack up a bill of over five hundred Hong Kong dollars, most stores provide free home delivery. Better still, if you don’t feel like visiting the store, just shop online and have everything delivered right to your doorstep during your chosen time window.

However, there are times when I can’t help but miss the convenience of my neighbourhood kirana store in India, which would deliver anything ordered over the phone (even just a tube of toothpaste), within fifteen minutes. The owner was so well versed with my standard Saturday morning order, that in case the shopping list deviated, he would always double check to ensure that I wasn’t forgetting anything 🙂

I was working on a retail sector study project once, with a couple of consultants from UK and France. They mentioned how the “latest” development in retail in Europe was getting home delivery of fresh seafood and meats.

“But, that’s how my mom in law has always gotten her seafood in Mumbai”, I responded. “The local fisherman comes home with the freshest catch of the day, which she can select from. If he is aware that my husband is visiting home, he always brings an extra large quantity of bombay duck, knowing that’s his favorite fish”.

How’s that for good customer relationship management? And they say that retail in India needs to develop!

Things have a way of coming full circle. As people in the western world rediscover the allure of farmers’ markets and local produce, there may be lessons in it for the developing world.

There are some aspects of development, which genuinely make people’s lives easier and better, that need to be embraced. Yet, there are some traditional ways of doing things, which need to be held on to as well. After all, they may one day, become “modern”.

And isn’t it great to be able to have the best of both, nay, ALL worlds?