Despite being barely 21 years old, A. Durairaj had already come to hate his job in a desktop servicing firm where he would merely “check if the cords were overheated and blow off the dust in between components” for about Rs.1,800 a month.
That was two years ago. Last year, he underwent a month-long training programme at a laptop servicing firm in the city and started providing laptop service at customers' doorsteps. With strategic advertising, he says his client base is expanding rapidly. “From replacing batteries and sorting out display problems, to checking for malware, I can handle everything.” he proudly claims.
Mr. Durairaj is part of the new breed of technicians who call themselves laptop servicing agents, a profession that is attracting many unemployed graduates and school dropouts. And even as these technicians help many laptop users with timely and affordable services, the profession is fast becoming an option for desktop repair professionals whose own clientele has been in the decline.
“While the company servicing centres would charge around Rs.3,500 for a keyboard replacement and take almost two weeks, these technicians do it for around Rs 1,800 within two days. One needs to go to branded services only if there are problems with the motherboard,” says Karunya Shastri, a software professional.
J. Ramakrishan, who trains people in laptop servicing, says: “We focus on training people in opening various kinds of models available in the market first. Unlike desktops, laptops can be totally damaged if unlocked from the wrong side.”
Identifying models whose spare parts cannot be easily procured is necessary too, he adds. Incidentally, training consultants say there has been a surge in the number of people keen on learning laptop repair after the government's announcement to hand over laptops to students.
Most of these courses cost anything between Rs.10,000 and Rs.20,000 and last anywhere from 10 days to three months. “We are made to work on 10 different kinds of laptops for 20 days and are taught how the power routes inside. Since it is all practical, we pick up a lot by solving issues, checking the regular possibilities. Experienced technicians manage to earn more than Rs. 25,000 a month,” says Jayasekhar Raju, a B.Com drop out.
Some laptop users, though, are not convinced, “Problems with booting, detecting extra drives, damaged ports and LCD displays, are issues local technicians may not be familiar with,” says Arun Rajasekharan, a hardware consultant. Most technicians tend to solve issues by trial and error.
Some professionals might require bills for getting the repair charges reimbursed, says Jayanthi Ramesh of Sun Macro system. “Employing the right technicians, especially those with a background in electronics helps,” she adds.
Everyone agrees though, that the competition is mounting. “Within three-four years when almost every house hold will have a laptop, service professionals are bound to be in much greater demand,” says Senthil Kumar of Ram Infotech, who has been in laptop servicing for eight years, and has started imparting training since a year. And while more professional laptop training courses are required, says R. Suresh, hardware engineer in an IT firm, users also have to realise that most new models now have auto scanning and formatting techniques, and can detect hard disk problems. Getting acquainted with the laptop, reading its manual and seeking help from the internet can not only reduce expenses, but will also help the system perform better.