Walk into any computer store in Karachi. The likelihood is:
* The person behind the counter doesn’t know much about computers.
* He (and it’s definitely going to be a he) doesn’t really use computers.
* The price will be as high as they think they can get away with.
* Does not realize that he can make his life much easier using the same computers he’s selling to automate much of the mindless software installation and troubleshooting they keep doing.
* Has never heard of automated installs and imaging.
* Customer support… ( _no no no_ )
* Everything will be scattered about in a way to make even the simplest task take at least half an hour.
* Everything will be connected to a single _overloaded_ stablizer, causing all the monitors to flicker like mad.
* There will only be a *single* phillips head screwdriver in the whole shop, which will be borrowed periodically by someone next door.
* Has never wondered why most of their customers come to him with the same issues over and over again.
The consumer is also to blame, for they are looking for the cheapest possible bargain. As shops mature and improve with time, their prices naturally go up and people shift on to the next _crap_ store around the block. Of course, this being Pakistan, often times as computer shops get ‘established’ the prices start creeping up and the service down.
Every single computer part (except processors) is now made in Taiwan and China, which are both not very far from Pakistan. I have always wondered about the lack of any Pakistani computer assembler along the lines of Gateway and Dell ( _but at Pakistani scale_ ). They should be able to get volume discounts and undercut all the 2 man (with three helpers) stores everywhere. All the current Pakistani computer assemblers like Inbox and JBS sell at a premium, and on top of that aren’t doing anything different from the smaller stores. Most home users buying PC’s are computer illiterate and ( _I think_ ) would prefer buying from somewhere where they can get proper after-sales service and support. Currently, if they have a problem they drop off their pc from whereever they got it from, where it languishs for a while depending on the pressure applied from on high. Then some helper gets to fix it. After checking for porn and going through their documents, they finally do the minumum necessary to fix it. It wastes a lot of time on the part of both the store and the customer.
I envision a chain of stores, along the line of “Apple’s”:http://www.apple.com/retail/, which sell PC’s based on a custom GNU/Linux distro. Customers get a hour long training session (at home or at the store) on the basics, along with simplified documentation. There is no need for Windows, as your typical home user doesn’t play the latest DirectX games. Not only that, Windows computers decay/entropy very fast. A Linux distro can be made practically bulletproof, and with Mozilla, OpenOffice.org and “other softwares”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_10/best_open_source_or_free_software.html just about every need is configured. Since Linux doesn’t work with just any USB device, the store also sells a number of ‘certified’ accessories along with it which should cover any conceivable need, and maintains a list of hardware which does work with Linux. A proper retail chain will not be able to get away with pirating software for too long anyways, so it makes sense to stick with Linux.
Is it economically feasible? That is the million dollar question. Initially there will be no volume discounts so costs *will* be more than the two man on the corner stores. Fedora Core and Mandrake should fit the bill right out of the box, and would just require a little ‘branding’ work. The rest of the hard work is already being done by numerous people and companies out there, like the lists of hardware, compatibility issues etc. Linux 2.6 supports just about every new piece of hardware out there anyways so it’s going to be that big an issue.
What all the gamers out there? Well they will certainly not be buying these Linux boxes, so the real question is how much of the market do they represent? While it is a sizeable percentage, I do not think it is very large. The really hardcore gamers already all have two pcs, one for gaming and the other one for the rest of the family.
I think people would be willing to pay a premium for quality, and if managed properly, the cost levels should not compare to badly with the proverbial corner store. After all, Sony does roaring business here, despite the large number of cheaper knockoffs with more functionality.
_Disclaimer: I recently went to a few computer stores._
h4. Online Computer Shops in Karachi:
_The following are all the decent computer stores I’ve come across which also have a web presence._
* “Galaxy Computers”:http://galaxy.pk/ :: Latest prices of computer goods in Pakistan. Website is frequently updated and the prices match current market rates. This is the single best computer website in Pakistan. Nothing else comes close.
* “Beliscity”:http://www.beliscity.com/ :: They have a frequently updated website, and decent prices. It’s the only site of it’s kind which I’ve come across.
* “IdealSys”:http://www.idlsys.com/ :: They’re not selling anything online, but they are the dealers for AMD and MSI in Pakistan. The dealer prices are available on their website – that is very usefull indeed.
*Offline Computer Stores:*
* Uniplaza on I.I Chundrigar road is the center of Karachi’s computer world. A veritable fish market of low end computer goods.
* For high end stuff not available anywhere else in the -city- country, there is ony one option: Clifton Computers at Sasi Arcade.
* All the other stores I’ve every come across are practically indistinguishable from each other.
* There are of course the imported brands like IBM, DELL, HP, etc. but those are generally expensive and not worth the premium.
p. *Comments on this entry are now closed. Please use the ‘wiredpakistan forums’:http://wiredpakistan.com/forums for discussion of computer shops in Pakistan.*
*Update:* Article updated Jan 2007. Sadly, there hasn’t been much improvement in that time, with the exception of the “Galaxy Computers website”:http://galaxy.pk/.