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Laptop business bucks slump amid lockdown

Work-from-home and online classes drive demand

By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta
  • Published 14.05.20, 6:11 AM
  • Updated 14.05.20, 6:11 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Several traders reported a manifold jump in enquiries and deliveries over the past two months, including bulk rental orders from companies. Retail sales have also seen a surge, they said. Shutterstock

Laptop dealers and distributors are having their stock fast depleted as Calcuttans scramble to work from home in the wake of the lockdown.

Several traders reported a manifold jump in enquiries and deliveries over the past two months, including bulk rental orders from companies. Retail sales have also seen a surge, they said.

While traders attributed the rise in bulk demand to a surge in the work-from-home population, retail sales have jumped because of virtual classes for children, they said.

“We had to procure close to 1,500 laptops from manufacturers over the past two months. Calcutta accounted for around 300, a business surge of over 30 per cent,” said the co-owner of a Salt Lake-based company — with presence in six other Indian cities — that deals in computer hardware and focuses on a rent-based model.

He requested not to be named because he wanted to “avoid attention during a boom in business”.

Laptops on rent are supplied to companies that order in bulk. The devices are needed for specific projects that last for a certain period. After a project is over, the machines are returned to the vendor.

Most companies had only a certain percentage of its employees working from home before the lockdown. The number went up substantially after the Covid-19 curbs came into being.

A multinational investment bank and financial services company has over 3,000 people working in Calcutta. “Before the lockdown, less than 30 per cent worked from home. But post-lockdown, the number shot up, leading to a demand for at least 800-900 laptops,” said a senior executive in the IT vertical of the company.

A dealer in Chandni Chowk, who too requested anonymity, said when the city was in a standstill, his marketing team was “extremely busy”.

“They are constantly answering calls and talking about the best-possible configurations and budgets,” said the dealer, who has seen “a 25 per cent growth in retail sales”.

Dipanjan Purkayastha, the CEO of HyperXchange, an online-to-offline electronics marketplace, said: “The demand for laptops over the past month has been well over five times the normal demand.”

The 45-year-old sells refurbished laptops, which come at a much cheaper price than brand new devices. He has now started home delivery across Calcutta and other parts of the state.

Purkayastha attributed the surge in demand to “the need for more computing devices at normal middle-class urban homes”.

“Till now, a typical home had one computing device, laptop or desktop. But now, if the parents are having to work from home, the children are also having to attend virtual classes. One device is not enough,” he told Metro.

The lockdown has brought about a change in the working model of even non-IT companies, forcing them to invest more in work-from-home infrastructure.

A company with mining interests, part of a big conglomerate, has 120-odd employees in Calcutta. Around 70 of them have been provided with laptops for working from home.

“When the lockdown started, we had procured only 20-odd devices. But we have realised this is going to be the new normal and procured many more,” said Sourav Das, the chief information officer of the company.