Below is the report which I emailed to Mr. Suparno Moitra (my boss cum mentor) on 13th December, 2010 evening.
Journey: Central Avenue-Chandni Chowk, Kolkata
It was around 9:25 AM when I left my house today 13th Dec 2011. I, along with my junior friend Rohit, hired a taxi. My father wanted a lift, so he accompanied us as well. I and Rohit got down at Central Avenue crossing; my father took the cab as his office was few kms away from there. It was already 10:05 AM; still most of the shutters were down. Central-Chandni Chowk Avenue is the hub of the electronics-harware-software-mobile market in Kolkata. Numerous big and small shops are clustered in this area. I came here with an agenda “to know the software market” and “to understand the consumer behavior”.
Technocrat Infotech Pvt Ltd is the first shop I visited. It is a so-called big shop of that area. They sell computer hardware and software systems. A middle aged guy greeted me and asked me what I was looking for. I gave him my introduction and said that I was from NASSCOM, and that I have come here to understand the software market. He immediately told me “We do not sell any pirated software”. I smiled. My smile was enough to make him comfortable. I asked him what kind of software they trade. His answer was “just Microsoft”. I asked for any other brands and he replied they do keep software from Intel and Adobe. I again asked any other “local brands”, he replied no. Now we both were quite comfortable and he took us to the software counter and started showing software of various brands and their brochures. He told me they also keep Tally software but it was not available in the store at thas point of time. I asked him if this shop will keep any software from small companies if I get some best software from the SMEs. He said “no”. I asked for some reasons, and he replied “there is no market for Indian products”. He even told me most web based products need to be free if it is coming from a local brand, else it will be very difficult for these brands to survive. I gazed at him for a minute and then smiled. Thanked him for his time and inputs and left the place.
My next stop was at another shop, very close to Technocrat Infotech. This time I entered, and asked them if they sell software. The assistant told me they do keep software and asked me what software I was looking for? I told them I was not looking for Microsoft. The assistant with a frown on his face told me that they do not keep any software other than Microsoft/Intel/Adobe. The same response I got from 1 more shop in the same lane.
By now I understood the scenario which exists in most registered retail shops in that area. So my next target was to visit the grey market of the same area.
It is commonly known as the Chandni Chowk market where one can see a different world of electronics. A typical market full of tiny shops here and there. They have very narrow lanes congested with shops leading to a different connector. Software-hardware brokers moving around. A broker approached us; my junior friend told him that we were looking for software. He silently pointed to follow another person, who took us through a very narrow lane into a shop. He took out a bundle of software packaged in simple CD-DVD covers. At first I was stunned to see those soft ware – almost every software were available. Mostly from Microsoft and Adobe. In one CD there were dozens and dozens of software. I asked him for the price, he said just Rs 100 and that is also negotiable. I told him thanks and moved from that place.
I hired a cab, and started thinking about the entire journey while heading towards Sector V-Salt Lake
Some 5 key take aways:
1. Very narrow product space for new entrants in the market.
2. Software which fulfills the basic needs are already been developed by giants.
3. New products from local companies can only succeed if they are free or priced very low.
4. Importance of understanding the market requirements before working on products/services.
5. Selling techniques can be best learnt by visiting local markets.
Report ends here but my actual journey started. We are just “emerging” and there is a long way to go.