Kerala Model: Weekend mobile, TV shops thrive but supply a constraint

By: and |
Published: April 29, 2020 1:30 AM

The concern is genuine as new hotspots are emerging in districts like Idukki and Kottayam that were earlier in the green zone and considered safe.

The apprehension is that if green zones start turning into red with new cases detected, businesses can't settle and operate smoothly.The apprehension is that if green zones start turning into red with new cases detected, businesses can’t settle and operate smoothly.

On April 12, Kerala happened to be the first state to allow shops repairing and selling mobile phones, computers, electronic accessories and other consumer durable items, to open every Sunday between 10 am to 5 pm by maintaining all standard operating procedures like social distancing etc. The move has been hailed by consumers, industry bodies, and retailers but the road ahead is not free of pitfalls.

Though consumers thronged these shops to get their mobile phones and TVs and other such gadgets repaired or buy new ones, shop owners complain that they have to make do with whatever stock they have as supplies are either stuck or not coming and unless this bottleneck is not resolved, they are not sure for how long they can carry on.

“The initial response was good with many people buying new phones and some getting their phones repaired. People are concerned about the lockdown and want to stay connected through phones. The response is good in the rural areas. But we are concerned with the stocks and don’t think that we can function without inter-state transport allowed for such products. We don’t have mobile manufacturers in the state and depend on other states,” said Hamid, managing director of Fone 4 Communications India, which has 32 outlets in Kerala.

The other problem is that some of the areas which were in green zones, where shops were allowed to be opened, have turned into red in the last few days. The apprehension is that if green zones start turning into red with new cases detected, businesses can’t settle and operate smoothly.

“It is a problem that the hot spots are increasing by the day with more cases being reported in zones that were initially in the safe zone,” Jerry Mathew, managing director, Lan Mark Shops India, said. He has 170 franchisee shops in Kerala under the brand name of ‘White Mart’ that sells white goods like air conditioners and televisions.

The concern is genuine as new hotspots are emerging in districts like Idukki and Kottayam that were earlier in the green zone and considered safe.

Still, retailers say that demand has been good. “The showrooms are functioning with the bare minimum or 30% staff depending on the size. But the business is doing good in the air conditioner and television category even without any finance options. The television category is showing good sales though it was not growing before the outbreak of the virus. Very high temperature and humid conditions have helped in the sales of air conditioners with more people sitting at home,” Mathew of Lan Mark Shops said.

However, his concern also relates to supplies in the absence of which he’s not sure how long he can continue the operations. “We have good stocks because we have our own warehouses and distribution network but supply could be a concern in the coming days,” Mathew added.

Still industry bodies like MAIT, CEAMA and ICEA are urging the government to allow such shops to open and function elsewhere in the country considering the products and services they deal in have become even more crucial when work from home (WFH) has become a norm. ICEA has projected that around 2.5 crore individuals are suffering from non-availability or repair of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc.

MAIT CEO George Paul told FE that on Wednesday industry will have a call with IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and it will urge him to consider this demand.

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