Nehru Place and all that Jazz!

For all those even passively associated with IT in India, I don’t have to take the trouble of explaining what “Nehru Place” is.   For the uninitiated, Nehru Place located at the south of Delhi is at the heart of IT Hardware trading activity in Delhi.  This is the IT Hardware hub where Jawaharlal Nehru the 1st Prime Minister of India has been immortalized amidst buying and selling of IT Hardware products worth crores of Rupees or millions of dollars every day. For a Delhi’ite looking for anything ‘remotely connected with a computing device’ this is the place to take his Metro ride.   They say it is the Asia’s biggest IT market – whether it is in terms of area size or volumes transacted, I do not know.  As a market, to the consumer it provides all that she wants as far as her IT needs are concerned in one place and at prices cheaper than anywhere else.  For any brand worth its salt, no presence in Nehru place means no presence at all.  What happens in Nehru Place is an indication of what happens in Delhi or for that matter in North India.  So it is not surprising for many involved in the IT sales in Delhi to start and end their day at Nehru Place.  For visitors from IT MNCs, the Raison d’être of their business trips to Delhi is not complete without a visit to Nehru Place.  For, in the alleys, by lanes, shops and the open streets of the so-called IT market they get an opportunity to read the Indian consumer’s mind – whether they read it correctly or not is a different question.

The Nehru Place IT Market, Delhi

Lamington Road for Mumbai is Nehru Place to Delhi.   Lord Lamington after whom this area is named would not have imagined when he was the Governor of Mumbai century and few years ago, that his name will be in the lips and heart of so many IT sales professionals in India.  Though Lamington Road was decolonized and named officially as Dr.Dadasaheb Bhadkamkar  Marg,  I wonder if anybody can relate to this!!! Bhadkamkar Marg, anyone ?

A View of Lamington Road, Mumbai

Similarly Chennai has the Ritchie Street and Bengaluru has got its own SP Road and Kolkata – a G.C Avenue.  Not to forget Hyderabad’s very own CTC. Since one can confidently find the part or the component or the product in SP Road it is also called the “Spare Parts” road!!! In Chennai and Bengaluru when an IT sales person says “market is down today” don’t get it wrong.  He is not referring to the Stock market or the bullion market but he is talking about the vagaries of the IT market!  For people outside the IT hardware trade it will be interesting to note that resellers in the market are competitors among themselves as well as collaborators.  In the sense, while they are wholesalers for some products and distribute through other resellers, they are resellers for other products which they buy from next door wholesalers.  There is a healthy “give and take” and “co-operation in competition”.  All the resellers in these markets are organised under an umbrella association which takes care of their common issues. They are all connected through local telephone exchanges and in short well networked.

While respective IT markets in all the cities are embodiment of entrepreneurial enterprise, what is strikingly common is also the pitiable condition of the so-called IT hubs which hawk sophisticated, Hi tech equipment day in and day out!  The apathy starts from the parking lots where the only option you have is to leave your vehicle and then the keys at the mercy of boys who are wannabe FI car racers!  And then to reach the shops which are called retail outlets, you have to pass through alleys which are nothing but makeshift warehouses by the day with products being stacked in the stair cases, alleys and wherever.   The so-called outlets barring a recent few which have come up of late are antonyms of retail experience.  Retail experience which is all about displays, touch, feel and experience will have to redefine itself in our IT markets. As a consumer you are expected to see, touch and feel the product somewhere else or over the internet and come to these markets for just getting the lowest price and complete the transaction. In these dingy markets, red is the house colour.  Paan stained walls, corners, lifts, toilet commodes, urinals, wash basins and floors make you wonder if this is a “Paan” India phenomenon!     I personally had the experience in Lamington Road of sitting through one full meeting under nauseating circumstances thanks to a toilet around the corner.  I couldn’t help pitying the people who were spending time day in day out working there.  These days “foot fall” is a very popular term which you can hear in these markets.  When the foot fall is low in the market, the mood in the market is down completely and that is the good day for having constructive meetings with the resellers.  Road Shows here are actually shows on the road side!  In these IT markets you can see the sight of road side vendors doing refilling of Ink cartridges, toners,.. and I’m told that this is a sight only few countries can showcase today.    The sight of young boys carrying out this Toner refilling activity on the road side without proper masks, protective gear and without a setup is appalling.   That this toner powder is carcinogenic and can spread cancer is a fact few shop keepers or the boys or for that matter consumers who come there for refilling know and care about.

For long it has been my urge to see the IT markets in Indian cities organised like a Sim Lim Square or a Funan mall in Singapore or atleast a Low Yat Plaza in KL.  The attempts in the past by some to develop such markets in Mumbai and Delhi have been nonstarters.   The reason is the possible escalation of costs for the resellers which in turn will make them lose their competitive edge in terms of price which is their sole weapon to sell today.  The moot question is as consumers are we ready to pay a few bucks higher for a better shopping experience?

P.S : One interesting tit-bit –

This Nehru Place market has now the dubious distinction of receiving a new certificate of commemoration.  A US Government department known as U.S Trade Representative (USTR) has recently published a world wide list of markets that have been blacklisted for trading in highest number of pirated goods. This list is being called as ‘ Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,December 20, 2011′. This list includes, along with 14 other famous markets, Nehru Place IT market also!!!

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