The 67-year old iconic music store Rhythm House, a landmark in the art district of Kalaghoda in Mumbai, is preparing to shut shop. With consumers increasingly shopping online and free downloads available on the internet, stores that sell books and music are under threat. Music lovers in Mumbai, however, miss Rhythm House, and its affable owners Amir Curmally and his nephew Mehmood Curmally, who are never too busy to discuss the latest arrivals or make sure you find what you’re looking for.
Even a few couple of years back customers spent hours amidst the racks of CDs. But the footfalls are fewer now. “The last year has been really bad for us with the company making loses. The first thing we need to do is to stop that. Yes we are on the process of winding up the business soon,” says 75-year old Amir Curmally, director, Rhythm House. Even in these difficult days, the senior Curmally is able to laugh. “Thankfully e-commerce can’t take way the property, that is the saving grace.”
Curmally declined to share the quantum of losses the store has been incurring or to what extent sales have declined. But one of the staff declining to be identified as he is not allowed to speak to the media, said, that sales have dropped as much as 70-75% in the last one year. Most of the items in the stores are being sold at 40 to 50% discount while many racks are empty as the company has stopped re-stocking. Speaking to FE, the senior Curmally said the management was undecided on what to do with with the 3,000 sq ft of space that includes a mezzanine floor. “We may sell it off if we get a good deal. If someone offers us around Rs 100 crore then why not? We may also consider leasing out the place,” the senior Curmally said not ruling out starting a new business.
Amir Curmally recalls that he joined the business 20 years back. Everything was going fine till the arrival of technology and the era of free downloads. Incidentally, Rhythm House did try to make its presence felt online but was not able to compete with rivals.
Most of the staff in the store have been there for 15 years or more, some are around 55 to 60 years old and have spent their entire life working here. A sales person declining to be identified said the average salary of staff in the store ranges between Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month. The junior staff get around Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 per month.
Another staff member said that with just a handful of customers it had been evident for several months now the store could be closed down. Although the registration year of the store is 1948, Rhythm House was started in the early 1940s by Sulaiman Nensey who was a close family friend. Mehmood’s father started visiting the store during his college years, learnt the ropes, and eventually, took over the business as he really liked it, recalls Curmally.