Saving S P Road from the Flipkarts

There is nothing more insulting for a techie than to buy a gadget without looking at all the technical specifications and comparing prices etc. I have been running my old laptop for a few years now, and so decided to buy a new one. Sadar Pattrapa Road (commonly called S P Road) , the quintessential Bangalorean place for all electronics, and software ( pirated included) was my first stop. ( For those unaware of S P Road, it is close to City Market. )
I checked out a Dell Vostro with i3 processor for Rs. 25,000/- with taxes included from my regular shop there. S P Road charges 2.5% for credit cards, and I didnt have enough cash with me. Also, I wanted to check out what the new online stores offer so I came back home deciding to finalize things and go back again. I was in for a shock when the same specifications laptop was available at Flipkart for Rs. 23990/-.
Not being sure, I tried the buy option on Flipkart thinking taxes would not be included in the price, and was surprised that the laptop was available for Rs. 23990/-  all inclusive with a free home delivery service.
I couldn’t believe that these online stores now beat S P Road. The only USP of S P Road now remains the cheap pirated windows and office softwares that they offer with the laptops. So, will S P Road close down? I got restless at the sheer thought.
I have an old relationship with S P Road. Thanks to S P Road, I learnt how to assemble my first computer. Thanks to S P Road and my friend Mukundan who taught me the ropes, I learnt to trust Indian small vendors changing the impression that I was brought up with – that they are all cheats. Thanks to S P Road, I met a few Rajasthanis and learnt how they do trading. Thanks to S P Road, I learnt about esoteric hardware, strange gadgets like spanners, and screw drivers — and the fact that they come in various sizes — and different types of connectors, cables and other electronic paraphernalia.
After coming back from the US after a tiring PhD, I was burnt out. I just loafed around in India for a while. This was in 1995. 
I virtually did nothing for almost two years running as far away from technology as I could. In fact, I spent time in places like ashrams, and doing yoga and even karate, catching up on things I had missed in the US.
Then, when I was on my last 50 thousand rupees, I figured that there was no other way for me but to get to the dreary task of earning a living again. This was in 1996. My friend Mukundan used to work at Motorola, and one such evening when I was visiting Bangalore and living in a hotel, I decided  to bounce this new idea to Mukundan. I wanted to use my last 50 K to buy an assembled computer so that I could make a living out  of computer consultancy.
A language called Foxpro for databases was a rage that time, and I thought I could get some projects with accounting firms in Goa, where I come from. So, one day we came down to S P Road to purchase a computer.  We entered a vendor's shop and on a small piece of paper, the bloke put down the details and the rates: a 386 motherboard, a keyboard, a monitor, a hard disk, a mouse, some RAM, powersupply and a case. There was no wireless that time. The whole thing came to around Rs. 26,000/-.
Having almost finalized the deal, we decided to take a walk around S P Road before taking the final plunge. And on that walk, Mukundan casually mentioned that there was a job available in his group at Motorola which I could try. Being on my last bit of savings, I was in two minds. Should I spend this money on the computer or try out a job? I was in a bind. I mentioned to Mukundan my dilemma.  Finally, after some discussion,  I chickened out from buying the computer and decided to take a job.
And so I joined as a software engineer at Motorola.
 However, the relationshiip with S P Road that had started that day, remained and endured. Two years later, I bought my first assembled desktop computer from the same vendor at S P Road, and since then I have never bought a branded desktop computer. Not just that, but I have seen S P Road evolve;  from floppy disks, to DVDs and now blue ray disks, and what not. From simple TVs to digital ones, and all kinds of innovations. From pirated Windows 95 to now pirated Windows 10.
As later I got interested in security and hacking, for any hardware I need, S P Road is the place I run to first. Sometimes I have spent hours checking out various vendors at S P Road, and chai shops around the place are my frequent haunts. The bazaar like atmosphere reminds me of India the way it was and the interactions are reminiscient of nostalgia — the way things used to be till malls took over.
Typically, any shop on S P Road that sells an assembled computer has a guy who is called an engineer. It is his job to assemble the machine, and show that it works before it is handed over to the customer. Some of these engineers can't even speak English properly but they are very good at their job. Our standing joke was that they can only speak in BIOS which is the language computers speak when they first start off ( boot).
S P Road is also the place I go to for repairs of my laptop. There are these repair guys — also called engineers — who sit among heaps of motherboards in buildings which seem almost as if they will fall down anytime.. One has to climb few floors via narrow staircases to see these guys. But they will magically diagnose the problems of your laptop and fix them at a price no one else can do it in Bangalore. Or so it was, till I saw the price of laptop on Flipkart today.
So, I wonder and am anguished as to what the future of S P Road would be. And to add to my surprise and make matters worse in a way, some friends of mine have started a branded mobile repair startup. This is in Kormangala far away from S P Road. They are doing very well; and they said their best repair people are hired from S P Road.



Related Articles