Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Wishing Tree

I stopped by The Wishing Tree last week to buy a couple of gifts for when I go to the USA in July. It had been a year or two since I had last visited Ananda's "boutique" in the Metropolitan Mall in Gurgaon, and I was impressed by how beautiful the store is now and what a nice, peaceful vibration it has. The colors are so attractive and the displays nicely arranged. "Uncle" Vijay has done a great job of managing it these last few years and from what he told me, sales have gone up since the new Metro line has gone into operation. A local station is directly outside the doors of the mall.

When Swami Kriyananda moved to India late in 2003, it wasn't long before he suggested Ananda have a store of its own in one of the upscale shopping malls rapidly coming up on MG Road, not
too far from our ashram. Swamiji enjoyed visiting the Metropolitan Mall when he wanted a break from writing, browsing there in the Om Bookshop or having a snack at the barrista in the indoor courtyard. It was natural choice for us to lease a space there in 2004. Biraj headed up the project and served as manager until handing over the duties to Vijay when he shifted to Pune in 2008.
(Left: Vijay at The Wishing Tree)

Vijay told me a few facts about his customers and the store. Murtis (statues) have always been one of the biggest sellers and The Wishing Tree is now known as the place to go for anyone wanting a good quality murti. It also sells the best incense and puja accessories and many customers come especially for that. Vijay admitted these items don't bring in much money but his customers rely upon him for their supply, coming again and again. They also know that he is willing to procure whatever items they need, resulting in many of his sales being special orders. The store does not bargain but is recognized for always charging a fair price. Many foreigners come to the store as they browse the malls for items to take home and many have recommended The Wishing Tree to their friends for when they too come to India. Word of mouth is the best advertising.

One of the primary reasons for opening the store in the first place was to have a outlet for Ananda books and products to the general public. This is still an important aspect of the
store and it carries a full line of Swami Kriyananda's publications and music in addition to complementary spiritual literature, all of which sell well. If they don't have what you want, Vijay will get it for you. Anyone interested in Ananda's classes or other activities can get all the information they need at the store.
(Left: Kanta helps at the store when she can.)

So what's next? In the first years, the goal was to simply to balance the financial books but now that the store has begun to run a little bit in the black, Vijay is starting to think about expanding or even opening another outlet in Gurgaon. Who knows? The city is in a tremendous growth phase with few signs of things slowing down so I don't doubt another store could succeed if a good location is found. Another store (or stores?) would allow an expansion of the line of products and to buy in larger quantities. Maybe we could even have a store in Pune City too but maybe it's best to be careful about such plans because as the ancient tale says, whatever you wish for under the magical "wishing tree" is bound to come true.