When people discuss cheap IT goods, one of the first things that come to their mind are the crowded stalls at the Nehru Market in New Delhi, but what if there was a better option?
In 2012, Reboot, a Gurgaon-based startup, founded by Rahul Chowdhury and Anand Tater, introduced India to a new, cost-effective and eco-friendly option of refurbished goods, giving discarded PCs, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and peripherals, a new lease of life.
“When I moved back from the US in 2011, I realised there was no market for refurbished goods in India at all, whereas the situation in the US was very different. Twenty-seven States of the 50 mandate educational institutions to buy only refurbished PCs,” said Rahul.
Refurbishment is the distribution of products (usually electronics) that have been previously returned to a manufacturer or vendor for various reasons. Refurbished products are normally tested for functionality and defects before they are sold, and thus, are the approximate equivalent of certified pre-owned cars.
In a price-sensitive country like India, which generates more than 1.5 lakh tonnes of e-waste annually, cost is the reason why only 16 out of 1000 people own computers. Availability of refurbished electronic goods, at affordable prices, might help increase these numbers.
That was what Rahul and Anand had in mind for Reboot.
“I knew if I sold a PC for Rs 5000, the adoption would be multifold because price point is a very important factor in our country,” added Rahul.
What does Reboot do?
Reboot buys discarded electronic items for reasonable rates and then refurbishes them in their factory. The old products go through a 16-point check, which is a set of processes to ensure quality, before they are packaged and sold to customers through their retail outlets.
“We’ve spent many years to cosmetically make old computers look like new. Apart from this, we also use a complete data wipe to erase all data on the computer. We do this because we can’t trace the ownership. In short, it goes through something similar to a master health checkup,” said Rahul.
Reboot is the only refurbishing company worldwide to provide a one-year replacement warranty for refurbished items. The company is a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher, and charges Rs 600 to install the original Windows operating system on its PCs and laptops. The price of a PC starts at Rs 4,999 and increases depending on the specifications, whereas a refurbished smartphone starts at Rs 999.
Reboot has entered 11 States through its zonal partner programme. The zonal partner of every State is responsible for opening seven retail stores or experience zones across their State.
These ‘Experience Centres’ are all designed in a similar fashion with laptops, PCs, mobility devices (tablets etc.) and accessories occupying a side each. There are currently 19 such centres across the country.
Who buys refurbished goods in India?
- Educational Institutions: schools, colleges, polytechnic institutes and universities are the startup’s largest customer base and constitute about 40 per cent of the overall business.
- Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises: This constitutes about 20 per cent of the business.
- Retail Consumers: This constitutes 20 per cent of the company’s sales and happens through the zonal partners.
- NGO’s, governments and government-funded organisations constitute 20 per cent of the business.
Refurbishment as a service
Reboot services corporates through a RaaS (Refurbishment as a Service) scheme, where the company under its CSR programmes donates refurbished IT assets.
“We refurbish them at a cost and ensure that the company donates the goods right away. The products are almost like new and backed by a warranty,” said Rahul.
Reboot has protection plans on consumer electronics, and buy back plans with large organisations to manage its e-waste.
On the basis of various hardware market studies, the estimated latent PC market demand can be projected to be over 50 million units, which is an opportunity of about Rs 50,000 to 60,000 crores in addition to the existing market. Another source puts the figure for refurbished goods at Rs 1,00,000 crores.
Challenges in this sector
“The greatest challenge is always ensuring that the end customer does not compare us to the unorganised IT goods sector or the secondhand market that our consumers are used to. The education on refurbishment, its process and the quality, is a long-drawn out process which we work on every day,” said Rahul.
The other challenge is procurement of discarded goods for refurbishing.
Now and later
As of now, the company has sold 20,000 refurbished PCs across the country. It also has an e-commerce store (therebootstore.com).
In the future, the startup plans on having a presence in all the States, with over 250 retail outlets.
The question now is, will places like Nehru Market soon cease to exist?
“No they won’t, because we don’t want to wipe out the unorganised sector, we just want to make a dent, and create awareness about the advantages of choosing refurbished items over secondhand and used products,” added Rahul.