Spectacular Canning Street

Ankita Chakraborty

Calcutta has a number of sobriquets in its kitty such as ‘City of Joy’ and ‘City of Palaces ‘but it could have easily earned a new one – ‘City of Bazaars’. Indeed, the city has a large number of bazaars, some centuries old and many which sell only a single product, right from the most ordinary one to premium quality. In this edition of Calcutta Chronicle, we look at the spectacles market at Canning Street known for its spectacular variety of eyewear. You will find regular pair of glasses, designer ones, sunglasses and contact lenses– everything being sold in that cramped lane. Though the vast stock would bowl you over, you will not feel the need to tighten your purse strings.

The shops selling spectacles are located on both sides of Canning Street (Biplabi Rashbehari Basu Sarani) adjacent to Brabourne Road near Burrabazaar. When you travel from BBD Bag towards Howrah Station, Canning Street will be on your right side just after the crossing near Tea Board.

The bazaar has rows of shops that stock a wide variety of eyewear including frames, sunglasses and contact lenses. From outside, the bazaar may not impress you much but once you enter the shops, you are bound to be swayed by the wide choice and above all, prices of fashionable frames for your eye glasses. You would be surprised to know the net profit made by your neighbourhood shop that often source the frames from spectacles market at INR 100 and sell it at a premium price tag, charging you nearly three to five times more. If the well-known optical shops sell frames between INR 1,000 and INR 5,000, at Canning Street you will surely get them somewhere between INR 200 and INR 1,000, that too in every imaginable colour and design.

This century-old bazaar is thronged by both wholesalers and retailers, and is quite easily among the busiest markets in the city. The row of shops selling various kinds of eyewear – prescription glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses, easily transform Canning Street into the biggest bazaar for spectacles in the city.


The spectacles market beside Bagree Market on Canning Street is said to be at least a century old if not more. It is surrounded by Burrabazar, Ezra Street and Territi Bazaar and together, they form the oldest commercial area in the city. Most of the spectacles shops are said to be running for generations. Among the optical shops, Quality Opticals happens to be the oldest, set up in 1915.

According to Raja Gupta, one of the attendants of the shop owned by Abdul Mali, Quality Optical was the first shop for spectacles in this market.  “After our shop started, a number of other shops mushroomed, making Canning Street one of the largest wholesale and retail markets for spectacles and eyewear today,” Gupta claimed.


There are around 30-40 optical stores in the market. The older shops are congested and overflowing with customers while the newer ones are better organised with good display. On entering, you will find shops stocked with a variety of sleek, chic and trendy frames for spectacles, lenses and sunglasses which will not only suit you but your pocket too. Every shop has three to four attendants, patiently attending to the customers’ needs and queries.

Standard Optics, Gautam Optics, Ashok Optics are some of the other reputed and popular shops in the market. Some of the new establishments are Maqbool Brothers, Model Optical and Crescent Optics. These shops deal in both wholesale as well as retail sale while shops like Coronation Optical Co., Krishna Optical, Deepak Optical and others are only wholesalers; at times they do cater to retail customers but sell at a slightly enhanced price.

Some of the shops in the market also have provisions for eye testing by a registered doctor just like regular optical shops. Adnan, owner of Empire Optics, said: “We also offer facilities for check-ups and eye testing. Doctors are available almost every day of the week between 12pm to 7pm.

The Market

The bazaar is cramped in a single lane of Canning Street. It is a part of city’s oldest commercial hub and due to its close proximity to Howrah Station, the spectacles market at Canning Street swarms with traders throughout the day.

You will come across a number of hawkers crowding the already cramped street, making it almost impossible to walk through the lane without a bit of jostling. Amidst the vendors selling varieties of household goods and plastic items really cheap, on both sides of the street are rows of shops stocked with eyewear. Rarely you will find any of the shops empty throughout the day. Apart from shops in the lane, a large number of shops are housed in the ground floor of the adjoining buildings.

The Buxa Goli inside the bazaar doubles up as a workshop for optical stores in the city. Fixing and repairing jobs for glasses and spectacles are done here. “A customer can get his broken lens or frame mended here,” claimed Sikandar Molla, one of the workers.

There are around 8-10 workers busy in fixing and fitting the glasses and they readily fix your broken lenses or frames.


The spectacles market in Canning Street sells a wide collection of frames for all age groups. The price point at which the products are sold here are lower than your local shops. Frames come in large variety including polarised, classic, rimmed, rimless, semi-rimmed, scissors-glasses, cat-eyed, butterfly among other variety. Brands like Crizal, Seiko, GKB, Velocity, Volcano, Force and others are available for frames as well as sunglasses. Chinese products too are available with a minimum warranty of one year.

Joy Chakraborty, an attendant at Maqbool Brothers said: “Our shop deals with both wholesale as well as retail customers. Around 30 varieties of sunglasses, 2,000 frames and 6-8 varieties of contact lenses are available in the store. We stock a large collection of frames suiting all kinds of faces and at the lowest price range.”

Product ranges from INR 100 – INR 2,000 at the most. Sunglasses will cost between INR 90 and INR 500. Frames will cost between INR 150 and INR 1,500 while contact lenses will cost INR 200 and above. However, prices may vary slightly depending upon wholesale and retail outlets.

Market Economics

Wholesalers dominate the market.  “Since majority are repeat customers, the profit margin is kept low, earnings are about 3–4 per cent on a product”, added Raja Gupta.

A customer, Himadri Shankar said, “I generally buy all sorts of optical items from this market because it offers variety at the cheapest possible price. Everyone should visit this market once and I am sure they would make it a point to come here regularly.”

Apart from regular customers, retail shop owners from Bardhaman, Cooch Behar, Malda, Murshidabad and Hooghly come to this market to purchase eyewear from wholesalers. Shop-owners from suburbs like Madhyamgram, Sonarpur and Barasat also source their products from this market. Their profit margin is around 5–7 per cent since they buy it cheap from Canning Street and sell at higher prices to local customers. Payments are generally made through cash. However, some shops accept credit cards too.

Source Of Product

Products are sourced both from Calcutta and outside the city, sometimes even from other countries. Branded products are sourced from Mumbai and Delhi while international products are imported from China and Japan.

The products are generally transported through trucks, buses and train while shops inside the city use coolies mostly to carry their stock. Be it eye testing by registered ophthalmologists, availability of a wide variety of frames or contact lenses or lens fixing and repairing, the spectacles market at Canning Street offers everything in the same area. So if you are on the lookout for eyewear, cheap or chic, look no further than Canning Street.

Product Range

Frames: Polarised, Classic, Rimmed, Rimless, Semi-Rimmed, Scissors-Glasses.

Sunglasses: Polarised, Aviator, Retro Square, Sport, Browline, Butterfly, Cat Eye.

Contact Lens: Polarised, UV, Bifocal, Trifocal, Progressive.

Fast Facts

Spectacles Market at Canning Street

Location: Canning Street

Open: Monday to Saturday

Timings: 9 AM to 8 PM

Car Park: Scarce availability in the vicinity