TATA’s Croma takes first steps, but Ritchie Street scores

TATA’s Croma brand electronic store in Tarapore Towers, located on Chennai’s arterial Anna Road is worth a visit. The gadget-oriented customer is bound to feel happy looking at all the hardware in one place, although the store’s inventory is by no means complete.

It is an interesting place to look at a variety of things, such as televisions, video players, mobile phones, corded and cordless phones, gaming consoles, some peripherals and even keyboards (limited to Casio).

Croma offers some discounts, but the store sits virtually cheek-by-jowl with Chennai’s famous Ritchie Street electronics market. If you don’t mind the jostling and sweaty, pushy ambience of the street, you can get many pieces of hardware and a lot of software for even half the price that Croma sells for.

This is particularly applicable to memory cards, flash drives, recordable media like DVDs and CDs and the like. A sample check showed that the iPod Touch 8GB seemed to be priced about Rs. 1,500 higher than the Chennai street price.

Of course, it is pleasurable to see the hardware stacked up at Croma, with the staff trying to be helpful, but in packaged products, finally, it is price that rules. So if Croma wants to get a larger piece of the action, it must push prices further South. The volumes will help keep costs in control, considering that Croma’s overheads are higher than those of the pigeon-holed shops on Ritchie Street. But that does not explain why a 3 user pack of Norton Internet Security 2009 is cheaper in Ritchie Street, shrink wrapped, at about Rs. 2,600 because that is the price Croma wants for just one licence.

There is also lot of scope for genuine expansion of non-Ritchie Street merchandise in Croma. Hobby electronics needs a big boost in India, and this is the best place to start. Good quality telescopes for stargazing would be one example. How about high performance radios, for another.

Some points to note:

Not all Croma staff are conversant with the latest store pricing. I was billed Rs. 150 more than the actual selling price for a Panasonic cordless phone, because the clerk was not aware of the discounted price. I informed him and he had to generate a second invoice. System integration is still in infancy.

It is welcome that the store staff will open and display package components upon purchase, and do a demo. They also offer an extended 2 year warranty on extra payment, but the warranty service is as yet untested. It is good to ask at the point of purchase for service centre information for all items. The staff oblige.

Now with Reliance Digital also setting up shop across the road in what used to be MECO House, we can watch whether electronics retail is in a really competitive phase.

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