The very definition of a marketplace seems to be changing.

At one end are online retail stores such as Amazon and Flipkart and, at the other, mobile shops of all kinds, offering everything from mats, handloom, footwear and stationery by the kilo to ice cream and food on the go.

For Anil Khanna, who has been selling women’s undergarments from a van in south Delhi for a decade, the concept is not new. High rents forced him into the mobile-shop business and over time he has managed to build a base of loyal customers who find his products appealing and affordable.

Though bazaars and malls continue to draw in the crowds, the mobile-shop concept now seems to be catching on across cities, with vendors on wheels reinventing themselves to meet the changing demands of customers even in tier II and III towns. Just last week, a cooperative in Visakhapatnam launched mobile stores to sell local products such as honey and juices.

The experience of 25-year-old Rohit Bora, who works as an assistant at a shop in Delhi, may explain their popularity.

“I don’t have to travel very far. I cross the van (selling shoes and clothes) while coming to work. Otherwise, I would have had to waste time on my weekly off days to purchase such items. The advantage here is that it is available conveniently. You can check the size and you get a variety. It is available at a cost which is affordable and the people who run the vans are willing to bargain as well."

Clearly, many others agree.

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