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Updated: February 24, 2013 15:53 IST

Saving city, tyre by tyre

BHUMIKA K.
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T. Balasubramanyam. Photo: By author
The Hindu T. Balasubramanyam. Photo: By author

I AM
Name: T. Balasubramanyam
Occupation: Puncture repairer
Area: Margosa Road, Malleswaram

He’s part of the city’s ubiquitous brigade, very commonly known as the “puncher shop”. But 29-year-old T. Balasubramanyam is an enterprising young man who’s risen well beyond the basic set up of fixing punctured tyres of vehicles.

It may be just a hole in the wall, but his shop Sri Eshwari Tyres is a hub of activity from early in the morning till late in the night. After he completed his SSLC, Balasubramanyam worked in a barrel shop for about a year, before joining his father’s old tyre trading business. He takes me through the intricacies of tubeless tyres — the latest technology, what causes punctures, how he patches them etc, all the while attending to his customers on phone, and in front of his shop.

Three years ago, he set up his own shop, in a sort of graduation from a business dealing with tyres for five years before that. He explains that old tyres apparently find currency among travel agencies who pick them up for their cabs to stay within their budget, with a bit of patch-up work! Balasubramanyam has also been savvy enough to register with the JustDial directory, so anyone who calls from the north Bangalore region with a punctured tyre are directed to him.

“Now I also sell tubeless tyre puncture kits that have refill units — so people can fix their own punctured tyres…it works out cheaper for them too. Every weekend I go to the Bangalore International Airport, where there are around 3,000 taxis parked at any time. I fix punctures, do demonstrations of this kit, and sell them. On weekdays, I’m here at the shop,” says Balasubramanyam. Apart from fixing tyres of any vehicle ranging from a two-wheeler to a tempo-traveller, he also does the odd job — filling air for children’s cycles, footballs, oiling cycle chains…even as we talk, a pushcart vendor comes to him to have air filled for the wheels of his cart. Another customer walks by and says, “Arrey! I still have to give you Rs. 20 for last time…I’ll give it in a while.”

So a lot of his business works on trust? “Yes, once they come to me and have a puncture fixed and see how it really lasts long, they keep coming back to me. All people who come to me are by word-of-mouth. I use a heating method of patching and fixing punctures, which lasts long. I keep a very small margin for myself, so people always come back.” The constant state of overhaul that Bangalore is in with the construction of Namma Metro and numerous flyovers is the site of many a puncture, he observes. He fixes anywhere between 15 and 20 punctures a day at his shop. Nails are big culprits as are stones. Non-ISI brand local tubes are pretty bad too, he says insisting butyl rubber (synthetic) tubes are good.

Like in any other sphere, China has invaded the world of tyres too. And Balasubramanyam says that coming at 40 per cent the cost of Indian tyres, they don’t perform too badly either; they just don’t offer a warranty. He rattles off brands of other imported tyres he stocks too.

He has one assistant at the shop, and his father-in-law Mani oversees work when he isn’t around. Mani offers his own observation: “What we do is like a social service…sometimes people come in an emergency just when we are downing our shutters, and we can never say no… we get home only by midnight on such days.”

He also points out how they end up playing saviour most of the times — a single day doesn’t pass without an accident taking place at the junction of Malleswaram 17 cross and Margosa Road, where his shop is. “We’ve also been made witness in two accident cases and end up going to court too!”

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