Users struggle to buy, repair key tech items | Mumbai News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The Sampats, an ailing elderly couple from Thane, are facing the lockdown heat, quite literally, after their air conditioning unit suddenly conked off. The Ratnam family from Malad is in a similar predicament after their TV and microwave stopped working last week.
Thousands of families across the nation are facing a hard time due to their gadgets malfunctioning at the ‘wrong time’. With lockdowns in place, neither can anyone take a damaged good to a repair shop nor can a technician come home.
It’s not only household goods that are causing distress. With work from home becoming the norm in the era of social distancing, many services that were broadly seen as “non-essential” till some time back, are now defining the new-age work culture.Repairs of laptops, printers, refrigerators, ACs, smartphones and even TV sets are an absolute necessity when you are confined to your house under emergency conditions.
Even hospitals and government offices are finding it difficult to repair or replace goods. It’s near impossible to carry out any repair work swiftly without an emergency pass.
D Vinayak, a senior professional with a media company in the Delhi-NCR region, is extremely worried as his laptop—the only way he gets connected to his office and manages to carry out his assignments from home—has crashed.
On contacting the manufacturer, the staff at the helpline tried to sort out his problem over phone, but it turned out to be an issue with a specific part that needs replacement. “But movement of our repair staff is not allowed at residential societies. So, we cannot do anything,” he was told.
Worried that he may not be able to contribute to his office, he tried to buy a new laptop. “Sorry, but there are no deliveries that are happening now, and our retail stores are also closed,” was the answer he got.
Dahisar resident Neela Joshi has been trying to call up technicians after the discharge pipe of her washing machine was damaged but in vain. “My daughter, son-in-law and grandchild have moved in with me till the curfew lasts and the laundry basket overflows on most mornings. With no chance of getting a new discharge pipe anytime soon, I’ve been trying to plug holes in the existing one with cello tape,” she said.
In Chennai, Neelima Sharma, a home-maker whose refrigerator stopped working, has posted an appeal in the local WhatsApp group, requesting anyone with “even a small spare refrigerator to lend/lease” it to her for some days.
“Provision of these services is an absolute essential in such times. People are literally under house arrest and the only way we can drive productivity is through work-from-home. But if the repairs cannot be carried out, you not only end up wasting crucial man hours, but it’s also a loss for the country’s GDP,” Nitin Kunkolienker, president of IT hardware industry body MAIT, said.
Kunkolienker said that having the freedom to work from remote locations—home in the case of Covid-19—serves the purpose of creating social distancing. However, he rues that enforcement agencies are not open to issuing even the bare-minimum passes.
Vijay Kumar, director (customer support) at printer and scanner company Epson India, said while telephonic support is offered wherever its feasible, at least two passes should still be issued to the service personnel/centre to manage movement in cities. For critical complaints at hospitals and government offices, Epson said, “In such cases, we request the customer to send an email or provide a pass. This will be shown as supporting document by the engineers while commuting.”
LG Electronics has major AC deployments across hospitals, but is finding it difficult to get curfew passes. “We have not been able to carry out service in a big way. For important calls, we are guiding through phone. We are facing a difficult task, and are now raising it up with our industry association as well as concerned state governments,” Vijay Babu, vice-president for home appliances and ACs at LG India, said.
Such is the scale of the problem that a senior employee at Samsung India has been unable to replace the faulty laptop charging cable of his family member. “How do I get it done? I have no answer,” he said, requesting anonymity.
An official with a top MNC computer maker said that their “service staff was beaten up by policemen” in the early days of the lockdown. “What do we do now? We can’t risk the safety and security of our support staff.”
Manish Sharma, president of Panasonic India, said that his company has sought curfew passes for certain number of service staff to cater to critical installation such as in hospitals. “We are still not sure how it will be given, but are working on it.”
Meanwhile, the Sampats are keeping their cool under the ceiling fan, waiting for the lockdown to get over.
(Inputs from Nitasha Natu)

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