They travel 40 km to shop for firecrackers that don't cost a bomb

When college students Shivkumar and Tabassum Rasul, along with their group of friends, travelled 40 km just to shop for firecrackers for Deepavali, they were doing nothing unusual.

For, this bustling industrial town just across the border has been attracting hordes of Bangaloreans who take advantage of the substantial price difference.

“We used to buy crackers from city stalls for higher prices. But when we got to know how profitable buying in bulk here is, we come here every Deepavali,” Ms. Rasul, staggering under her load, told The Hindu on Wednesday as she prepared to get back to Bangalore.

It is not just Bangaloreans who hop over to Tamil Nadu: people from the border areas of Andhra Pradesh also come in droves, as can be seen from the never-ending line of vehicles parked along the road, abutting the scores of stalls doing brisk business. On an average, each stall gets around 300 visitors a day.

Tax difference

The enthusiastic buyers don't mind paying the toll to cross the border. They say it's worth the time and trouble. The Hosur shops pay only the sales tax, whereas those in Karnataka have to pay both the excise and sales tax, pushing up prices by 15 per cent, explained stall owner A. Srinivas. This makes it possible for those in Hosur to offer discounts up to 90 per cent as opposed to the 75 per cent by the Karnataka retailers.

Also, some manufacturing units have depots in Hosur, cutting costs further.

No cakewalk

However, stall owners tell the 15-day affair is no cakewalk. Though they were chary of coming up with hard figures, they said they cough up a few lakhs to get the licence, rent the premises, put up the stall, pay employees as well as spend on their board and lodging.

Their other worries are the rain and business spreading thin thanks to competition. “Over the past few years, the number of stalls has doubled and our profits have come down,” grumbled Manoharan of Meenachi Agencies.

Increased demand

Most shopkeepers also observed that there is an increased demand for less polluting fireworks. Shopkeeper Sendrakumar pointed out that colour-based, almost smoke-free crackers were in great demand.

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