Name an electronic item and you will find it here. With more than 3,000 shops, Ritchie Street is the electronics shopping destination of Chennai

In the beginning, there was the radio.

“That’s how it all began,” says Govind Nagpal, Radio Market Cell chairman, as he traces the history of this market on Ritchie Street. With a small beginning way back in the mid-1950s, when radio was launched in the city, it originally consisted of barely three or four shops. It is now the second largest electronic market for computer spares and peripherals in the country.

Today, Ritchie Street spreads through Narasingapuram Street and Wallers Road adjacent to Anna Salai. With more than 3,000 shops, it is the electronics shopping destination of Chennai, ensuring availability of every product you can think of, starting from industrial components to finished products. The prices range from moderate to cheap, making it affordable to people who cannot access them otherwise. “Depending on the price and needs of the customer, the quality differs,” says a shopkeeper. The market’s advantage, besides competitive pricing, is the ability of the shopkeepers to identify customer needs and offer different pricing options, depending on sizes and features.

Nagpal got into the business in 1980, and by 1985 was an active member of the All India Radio and Electronics Association. The association which began in the year 1939 — pre-dating the market — celebrated its Diamond Jubilee last year with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan attending the occasion.

One of the oldest electronics shops in the area, Singh Trading Company has been around for the last 28 years. As a result, proprietors Naresh Grover and Ali are now pros in the business of electronics. “It all depends on how much customers trust you,” says Ali who considers reliability his secret, and the reason why his customer base is full of regulars, adding, “customers should be given space to choose what they want. Laying pressure on them does not help.” Discussing how the market has grown, Naresh adds, “Previously radios were the main products. Today, name an electronic item, and you’ll find it here.”

The electronic components are mostly manufactured in Delhi, while some are imported from China, Taiwan and Korea. Students of Electronics Engineering purchase equipment from Ritchie Street for the completion of their projects. Syed, a regular customer, says, “There are times when I want to buy a certain electronic product but cannot afford it. This market gives various options so when I step out of the street I do not return empty-handed.” Customers say the products are “reasonable,” adding, “when I can get a television from Ritchie Street at a such a low price, why would I want to go anywhere else?” he asks.