METRO PLUS

Discount Dhamaka

IT IS pouring heavily outside. But Srinivas, 26, would never know it. With his wife in tow, the dandy executive is caught in a different downpour. And he enjoys it. Ambling inside an upscale mall where it's raining discounts and freebies, there are thousands like Srinivas - young, loaded with cash, and willing to spend. Purchases are not as important as money spent for acquisition, just as impulse runs over reason for an indulgence. Diwali has always been an exception. And this year's Diwali is simply an explosion.

Discount Dhamaka

The middle-class can at last, afford to relax their purse strings, thanks to the rock-bottom prices of consumer durables. Signboards slapping Diwali dhamaka on the face, and flyers screaming money-offs and bumper-sale, appear irresistible with the average growth in expendable income up by 10-30 per cent (as per a Business world-survey).

Discount Dhamaka

Caught in the race for a share in the market pie are big names like, Sony, Reebok, Motorola and more. And the customer is the nucleus of the whirlpool. "I have waited two long years to buy my favourite DVD-player. Believe me, I got my desired-DVD practically free with the new power-packed TV," says software developer, Laxmipulla Naga Sridhar.

Discount Dhamaka

Freebies, discounts and scratch cards, and the big prizes that go with them seem to be driving the shopping frenzy this festive season. Buy a mobile phone - get free activation, free insurance if it's a Maruti, a 10-gm gold coin with a bike, or simply buy a PC and get connected to the Net (free!) .

Discount Dhamaka

With competition hotting up, companies seem to have gone for the strategy of driving the sales-volume up by all means. "The maidan is now a playground for the customer. Unless offered something extra, he chooses a different field to play," says Shopper's Stop manager (operations), Rajeev Nair. The upscale mall has freebies galore up for grabs - from a tour of the Seven Wonders of the World to a Mont Blanc. Ditto for Lifestyle, Westside and all the others, which have become beehives of activity with fabulous price offs and offers, and takers thronging.

Discount Dhamaka

"The result is that, these upmarket stores have lured even those chunk of customers who always swore by small-time shops, and cribbed about value-for-money," blames Kavita Pamnani, owner, Astitva, at Marredpally. Ruefully echoing the same opinion is Asmita, who runs a boutique at General Bazaar. Little wonder that Asmita is herself busy checking out the ongoing discount sale at MPM Mall.

Discount Dhamaka

"Discounts are contagious in Hyderabad like elsewhere," feels market-research analyst, Sayeeda Billimoria. "Purchasing power has gone up, no doubt. But the middle-class in our country is ambivalent by habit, always seeming to wanting more for the price they pay, or a jackpot to grow richer. And with the prominence acquired by festivals in contemporary urban society, companies dealing in feel-good products are making optimum use of this psyche to inch their sales up," she explains.

Discount Dhamaka

Accordingly, a 27-inch telly is offered for the price of a 21-inch, and `more car per car' for the bargain hunter for vehicles. For the upwardly mobile, there's a 3315 in place of 3310 and a WAP-enabled one for the techno geek. A few slimming centres are courting clients with the bait of slicing a few extra kilos for the price of less, while Pizzerias promise an extra ladle of cheese as part of festival bonus. Customer-care executive, Neelam Sawnhey justifies the trend. "Riding high on the new economic wave, consumer is the king. The choice at his fingertips is phenomenal, and companies have no choice but to deliver if they want a share of that wallet."

In this want-fuelled race, are we losing out on the contentment quotient is a question that deserves an answer this Diwali. Take a look at that dishevelled, old beggar woman at Rathifile bus-stand in Secunderabad. Every Diwali, she sweeps portion of the footpath where she sleeps, buys a lamp with alms foregoing a day's meal and lights it at dusk. She is satisfied at her survival.

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