PUNE: The good old Juna Bazaar is much more than a broke hipster’s hunting ground for the freshly polished antique gramophones or wooden furniture in the time of Covid-19. A walk through the crowd and a peek into the stalls reveal items unseen in one of the city’s oldest markets in Kasba Peth — pre-used and refurbished laptops, desktops, tabs, smartphones and hard disks.
“I have two pre-used laptops, both branded, three desktops, a hard disk and quite a few smartphones. We have a bhangar (scrap) unit at Nana Peth, where people discard their devices. Many people had to upgrade their computers because of the work-from-home arrangement. Some people sold off their old gadgets. We buy and repair the gadgets and sell those,” says a seller, who is in his early twenties and identifies himself as Asgar.
“The laptops are available for anything between Rs8,000 and Rs20,000, depending upon the configuration. A desktop will come for anything between Rs5,000 and Rs12,000. But the hotcake remains the smartphone,” he says.
Asgar’s friend, Salim, says, “Smartphones are in much demand among people who cannot buy new and costly devices for their children’s online education. The pandemic has made life difficult for all.”
A child’s dream
Piyush Bhule is barely 10, but his little fingers swiftly shift between interfaces on the cellphone his parents have bought him to attend the online classes arranged by the zilla parishad school where he studies.
“My teacher sends me questions on the phone, and I submit the answers. I like the ‘Diksha’ app. But I want the school to reopen,” says the boy as he fiddles with his smartphone in a rundown accommodation provided to his construction-worker parents by their employer.
It was not easy for Piyush’s parents to buy him a Rs7,000-smartphone. “We work at a construction site near Kondhwa as daily wagers. We saved money to buy him a phone, if not a computer. I want to see the child getting the opportunity to study,” says Piyush’s mother, Archana, who is from Buldhana and is in Pune for nearly three years.
“I know many like us, who could not provide their children with a support system. For people like us, reopening of the schools is very important,” she says.
Used devices in demand
Lokesh Kasat, founder-director of leading technical solutions provider GNR Solutions Private Limited, says the pandemic-induced lockdown witnessed a 400-500-time rise in the demand for used computers and laptops.
“Before the lockdown, the city needed 2,000-3,000 refurbished desktops and laptops a month. The demand flew to over 1 lakh per month once the lockdown was imposed. The demand for computers on a rent also went up by 300-400 times. We are into this business for over 15 years. But we have never witnessed such a situation,” he says.
“Many companies provided their employees with mainframes for the work-from-home arrangement. But many firms told their employees either to get their own computers or look for options. I know quite a few people who sold off their ornaments to buy refurbished computers for their children’s online education. We witnessed an unusual time when having computers at home was a must, after food,” says Kasat.