It came to my notice that this post is one of my most popular blog post since I wrote it back in 2011, The problem is that most of the information in it were outdated, including the link to the blog I was referring to.
So, instead of adding more infos at the end of the original post, and making this post a mess, I decided to completely rewrite it and republish it.
This is after all one of the most useful post for new expats in India, the one that will help you find your way around shops and function like a normal human being in your new country of residence.
But before I proceed, here is the back story for the original post:
Back in 2011, I decided to google my blog's old URL (yes, I was still a .blogspot then) and found out that someone mentioned it in the comment of another blog (whose link is dead now). The blog post was basically a rant about how certain things were impossible to find in Bangalore : the typical issue many expats face in India.
What prompted me to write a blog post about shopping in India was that sadly, that expat had been pointed toward "Big Bazaar" as the best place to go shopping (which really is ANYTHING but the best) and that all the items she could not find and decided must not exist in India, actually did exist...if you know where to look...
There, now that the back story has been given, let's move back to present time, aka 2016!
It always saddens me when I hear people have been recommended Big Bazaar as the best place to shop. This bit of information hasn't changed.
Big Bazaar is great to strike a bargain on cheap everyday home items and bulk groceries, but ONLY if you have acclimatised to India. I would not recommend you hit that store fresh off the plane, chances are it will make you want to run back to wherever you came from. It's that bad people!
In my early days in India (we are talking more than a decade ago), this was really the most advanced there was in grocery and everyday shopping. What it did was put an entire market area under one roof. This was HUGE and a time saver for many middle class families. It had all the typical basic household items needed in an INDIAN context.
The problem is that expats come from a different context, with different needs, and more often than not way different standards.
They don't need to buy an idli making set, vermicelli press, coconut grater and a stainless steel dinner set.
One of the biggest household shock I got in my early years in India was the ridiculous obsession with plastic people had: Plastic chairs, plastic baskets and storage solution, plastic covers. That and the apparent aversion for natural fibre when it came to soft furnishing : Nylon and Polyester curtains (in horrible neon colours and 80's patterns no less), plastic woven mats, plastic table cloths...
It was back in 2003-4 don't judge!
Big Bazaar still caters widely to the bunch of people who dig that kind of look for their home (and no it is not always cheaper than more natural alternative)
Don't fear, that is not what you'll be stuck with while in India
The truth is that nowadays, you can easily find everything you will need to furnish and function in your home in India. Most of everything will be available at your local mall if you live in a Metro or big city.
If you live in a smaller town, you can order it all online, India is now big on e-shopping.
So are we ready to dive in my comprehensive shopping guide or what?
Gone are the days you needed to purchase those stuff abroad and sneak them past the custom. In the past 5-6 years we've seen a big boom in the "consumer durable" market. Stores like Croma, Reliance Digital, E-zone and local chains have made buying those much easier.
I am not talking about fridge, washing machines and AC units these were there all along. Nope, I am talking about things like coffee machines, tea kettles, vacuum cleaners and steam mops (yes even those!) much easier to find.
If all fails and you are after a more specific appliance chances are you will find it online, my personal favourite shopping place being Amazon India (affiliate link), Flipkart is also great.
Furniture and home decor
I'm not going to lie, I am a HUGE Urban Ladder fan, and their service is great as you can find out in this blog post, and this one.
If shopping online for furniture is not your thing, here are a few shops I highly recommend : Fabindia, @Home and Home Centre (Lifestyle group).
For all the soft furnishing, home decor items, and quality pots, pans and stoneware plates look no further than Home Centre, Westside, Home Stop, Fabindia, and @Home.
Online stores to consider : Fabfurnish, Pepperfry, and yup, you guessed it, Amazon.
Baby and toddler care
I can't tell you how many times I heard the "You can't find baby gear in India". I would be rich if I asked for one rupee every time I heard it.
I had my daughter in 2009, in Bangalore, and back then, it was still a tiny bit hard to find certain big tickets items but not THAT hard, and it was 7 years ago!
Rest assured that carseats meeting European safety norms exist, along with cribs, pack and plays, high chairs, changing pads and table, and quality toys.
Big Brands like Chicco, and Graco were already available in 2009, along with the UK chain "Mothercare" which sells everything baby and toddler related...even maternity wear!
While we are at it, yes diapers and wipes exist, and from my experience, the best diapers are Pampers, and Mamy Poko Pants. You will find them in any supermarket and pharmacy, and of course: online.
Baby hygiene wise, the best brand out there is Indian : Himalaya baby. I still use the diaper rash cream to treat my own heat rashes every Summer if that tells you anything about it.
The online stores to look for when looking for Baby gear : firstcry.com, babyoye.com and yup, Amazon!
Personal care and hygiene
Any supermarket in India will store the big brands like l'Oreal, Garnier, Nivea and Olay when it comes to shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, cream and lotion. What you will need to mind though is that a lot of products are geared toward the Indian market and are "whitening", not all but a fair lot of them.
Pharmacies also have all the personal care products you will need. If you need something more specific, you'll find it on Amazon or other big e-shopping site (yes I may start to sound like a broken record).
The brand "The Body Shop" has been presents in India for years and you will find them in many Malls in big cities or online as it seems they do distribute their products through Amazon.
For makeup needs, big department stores like Lifestyle and Shopper's stop have you covered, they sell all the big brands.
Now for another 1 rupees a pop that will make me rich info :
YES, you can find tampons and toilet paper in India. I kid you not, I have heard this one even more often than the baby gear bit.
All pharmacies will sell OB tampons and have them in two sizes, they also sell toilet paper by the roll. They do so even in smaller cities. In big cities you will find OB tampons and TP in supermarkets too.
Now, I get that OB tampons are not for everybody, some ladies prefer the comfort of an applicator.
And guess what? It does exist in India too, I've once seen it in a Supermarket eons ago, and more recently on Amazon, granted it is not cheap, but it exists!
India also has it's own brand of menstrual cup if you were wondering...I no longer want to hear that India is backward and has no modern options in female hygiene...no more or I'll go insane!
Last but not least, shoes and clothes
I am going to bypass the whole ethnic wear shopping, because this is something that you will just about to find anywhere, and as an expat, you may not even really care about it that much to begin with.
The one thing you need to be careful about when clothes shopping is that a lot of international brand either sell their "Asian sizes" in India, or stop stocking anything above XL or a size 34 for jeans, if you are taller, and heavier built, you may find it hard to find things that fit.
In more local brands of "western wear", you may not even really find your size.
In Europe I am a size M to L, in India, I am lucky if I fit in an XL.
My advice in this department is to bring your clothes with you and only shop for a few extra piece. Size problem aside, the other problem is the price, those actually cost a lot more in India in most brands.
The only international brand I have been able to find my size and is cheaper than back home is United Colors of Benetton.
For clothes I usually shop in Pantaloons (a multibrand clothes shop) and the brand I go for are Global Desi, and "And."
I also shop in Westside (the quality has gone down though) and Max. I love Max, especially for kid's wear.
H&M has been opening outlets in India this past year or so, and I am eagerly waiting for the outlet near my place to open in August. H&M, the Swedish apparel chain is probably going to be the answer to the size problem for European expats.
When I was in Thailand 3 years ago, I stocked up on all the basic t-shirts and tops I could not find in India if that says anything.
So yeah, finding what you need in India is now easier than ever and this little guide is now fully up to date as of 2016.