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Thursday, July 24 1997

Just call up to avoid shop hopping

Srikumar Bondyopadhyay

July 23: Dial a number or just mail your purchase order from a list of goods ranging from household electronics to kitchen appliances, from sports gadgets to medical equipment. The courier or the postman will deliver the items at your door step within a maximum of 14 days. You need not go around from one shop to another anymore. Certainly, in a departmental store a customer can make a one-stop-shopping, but it's not the same as distant shopping.

Distant shopping, or what is teleshopping, has been introduced in the major cities of the country by Unilazer group, the owner of the UTV, through Teleshopping Network (TSN) and United Teleshopping (UTS). ``TSN and UTS are two different names technically,'' says Deepak Gupta, ``but they refer to the same company.''

There is, however, another company, Sky Shoppe, offering teleshopping facilities to urban households. Both the companies are south-based and have franchisee or branch offices in most of the major cities in the country. So, a prospective customer, residing in a city where there is a franchisee or a branch office of a teleshopping company, can place his purchase list over phone to the franchisee only and get the items delivered within a day. If the customer is living outside the city, he can mail his order directly to the company or to his nearby franchisee.

To know what items the companies offer, at what prices and how to handle the products, one must be a regular television viewer for it is on this media only that the teleshopping companies have depended for spreading awareness about the products on offer and the procedure to send the purchase order. Each product is given with a code number which should be mentioned on the purchase order.

The teleshopping companies are like any other trading company. They themselves are not the manufacturers of the products they offer. Nor do these companies sell the product brands of any reputed company. The teleshopping companies only procure the products in bulk from small manufacturers at a lower cost, often on the putting out basis, and then offer these products to sell at a price lower than the branded products existing in the market. The quality of the products offered by the teleshopping companies depends on the technology level of the small manufacturers from whom the products are procured and the materials used for those products. The companies, however, claim that they follow quality control measures.

Though demonstration on how to use the products can be viewed on TV screen, it is not sufficient. For minor details may not be properly understood without a live demonstration. The companies, however, promise live demonstrations at the time of delivery of the items at home. Still, there's a flip side. The items are delivered at home either by courier or by post. So who performs who demonstration?

Finally it boils down to footing the bills. On this count also the customers who are residing in the franchisee cities are comparatively beneficial because such a customer can pay the bill on delivery only and does not require to pay any advance while placing the purchase order. But for an outstation customer, the entire amount has to be paid in advance while making the call through a bank draft. The home town customers also require to foot the bill, either in cash or in demand draft, cheques are not accepted.

Why teleshopping is limited to the cities where the companies or their franchisee are located and even why this new concept is not growing fast over time are not far to seek. Though in the franchisee towns customers can pay the bill on delivery, they cannot get a touch-and-feel experience before the products reach their doors. While the item is on hand, one may not find it buyworthy, resulting in cancellation of purchase orders. And for outstation customers, the fear of fraudulent trading rules the psyche.

Points to Remember

The purchase order (mail) must bear:

* Detailed postal address with pin code* Residence phone number* Product code* Demand draft of the full amount of the bill for outstation customers (no cheques accepted)

What teleshopping companies provide:

* Delivery of goods at home* Pay cash on delivery (for customers in franchisee towns) with postal/courier charges* Warranty on goods, defective goods can be replaced within the warranty period* After sale services* Servicing centres in all major cities* Live demonstration on delivery (in prime cities only)

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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