Move over Vijay Sales, Croma is here. The new electronics megastore from the Tata group is doing to electronics what hypermarts did to vegetables. Taking the buying experience several notches higher.
How? Well,to begin with the showroom is huge. And thank God, because on a Sunday evening at an obscure location like Sector 15, Palm Beach Road, Belapur (a km or so down from Seawood estate), the place was packed.
Mostly gawkers (like myself), but a fair number of shoppers as well. And yet, you did not feel claustrophobic.
The store is really well planned, well lit and well labelled. And the single most important difference: all that cool stuff is not locked away inside a glass case. With a stern / disinterested/ harried salesmen holding the key.
At Croma, it's what you might call 'auto display'. The gadgets are mounted on a stand of sorts. They can't be yanked off but you can touch and feel them, even operate the piece (except for the low end mobile phonee, which are dummies).
But digital cameras, mp3 players, PDAs - all have batteries. Can be switched on and 'experienced'.
There is, of course, a Croma guy standing there, if you need help. And the amazing thing is the store actually lives up to its slogan: "We don't sell, we help you buy". The staff is friendly and knowledgable but not pushy. Which is a difficult mix to achieve!
We took a full download of the Dopod PR 818 and walked away saying 'sochenge.' No dirty looks or sighs from the sales guy. The 'khareedna nahin tha to itna inquiry kyun kiya' scowl you'll encounter at Vijay Sales.
Of course I don't know for sure how good the deals are. Certainly the extreme value conscious types will only browse at Croma and then go buy their stuff at say, an Alfa. The Sony Ericsson P990i was retailing at Rs 19800 at Croma - you can get it for Rs 14000 odd at Alfa. But for many products like LCD TVs I am sure Croma prices are very competitive.
The other thing is they don't have a 'full range' in products like digital cameras or laptops. But they have adequate choice.
Lastly, here some cool accessories on sale. Again, some may be cheaper in the grey market but if you're buying a digital camera which does not come with a case you may as well pick one up from here. Cause by the time you get to doing that from elsewhere your LCD screen would already be scratched.
Croma is definitely international in look, feel and its approach towards selling. The store treats the Indian customer like a responsible adult, not a kid in a candy store who needs to be supervised and eyed suspiciously all the time.
At the end of the day, when the Tatas enter any new business, they do it with class. Where they sometimes lack is speed of expansion. If they take care of that - it's a winning proposition.