At the GreenDust office in Sultanpur, Delhi, twin refrigerators squat in the corridor. They bear the “Before” and “After” signs that we usually see in doctors’ offices. Here, of course, the distinction is that the “After” appliance is in mint condition. While the “Before” fridge has a visage marked by scratches and a system riddled with minor functional kinks that need to be worked out through careful examination and refurbishing.
GreenDust is one among a bunch of start-ups that are buying used gadgets, returns from customers and the surplus goods that retailers can’t sell; fixing them; and putting them back on the market at discounts up to 60%.
Refurbished, pre-owned and repaired devices are big sellers in the US. Companies like Apple sell refurbished Mac computers, iPads and iPhones abroad through their own stores.
In India, we’re starting to see this option emerge in the organized sector too. Brands like GreenDust, YNew and Gobol.in are tying up with consumer goods companies and distributors across the country to source and resell gadgets that are pre-owned, repaired, cleaned, dented-painted, all with warranties of up to a year; so you could get a deal on a phone with a warranty, knowing it has genuine parts and won’t stop working by the time you get it home.
While the companies are all pretty new, the business is already showing a lot of potential. For example, GreenDust.com has grown from a revenue of Rs.50 crore in 2012 to Rs.250 crore last fiscal year.
Gobol.in is “doing a couple of thousand orders a month”, says co-founder Rohan Gupta.
Gobol.in and YNew were both launched less than a year ago. It’s still early days for them, and they weren’t able to share revenue and sales volumes numbers yet.
Good as new
Hitendra Chaturvedi, who founded GreenDust, estimates that around 5% of all products in India end up being returned by customers to the manufacturer. The reasons can be as minute as a small scratch or dent in the body, a change of heart about the colour, or perhaps a missing accessory, such as a TV being delivered without a remote. Something like this can mean that a Lenovo IdeaPad U410 14-inch screen for Rs.39,600, all inclusive, against an MRP of Rs.52,990.
GreenDust and other businesses of this kind work on the principle that one man’s marginally damaged goods are another man’s perfect bargain. The company has a 50-point checklist to test the products minutely before reselling them.
This includes making sure that the product has genuine parts, checking for functional defects and putting it through a performance test. GreenDust then makes any necessary repairs or replacements and puts its own seal on the products. It offers a warranty of one year on all products. “If a part needs replacement, we reach out to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) for original parts. If something goes wrong within our warranty period, we have service networks across the country,” Chaturvedi assures.
It’s a similar tale at YNew, which launched its flagship store in Hyderabad on 23 July and deals in used and refurbished smart phones, tablets, laptops and television sets. Founder Dashradh Ram Nutakki says the store offers a free service warranty for the first 30 days which can be extended to 11 months for a fee of Rs.999. This is managed in-store by YNew, and covers all labour charges for repair.
From laptops to electric kettles
These sites make it possible to get great discounts on brands such as Apple, which typically does not offer price cuts early in a product’s life cycle.
Vineet Panchhi, founder of Dehradun-based Jingles India, says he has bought an Apple phone and laptop in just the last four months. This despite being in bootstrapping mode. “As a start-up, I have a thumb rule. If you can find something cheaper, pick it up,” he says.
Panchhi paid around Rs.22,000 for a used iPhone 4S and bought a nine-month-old MacBook Pro at YNew while travelling to Hyderabad on work. “They (YNew) even transferred the leftover manufacturer’s warranty to me,” he says.
On these sites, you can get mobiles, laptops, cameras, and appliances ranging from vacuum cleaners to blenders and fridges, blood pressure monitors or electric razors. Washing machines and air conditioners, from brands like LG and Samsung, are listed next to sandwich makers from Hotline.
YNew’s Nutakki says his pricing team makes sure the cost to buyers remains competitive even after you add the extra spend on warranty. The team looks at factors such as the age of the product, it’s current market rate, and visible traces of damage. “We have a less than two-month-old iPhone 4S 3G 16GB currently for Rs.24,000, when the market price is Rs.32,000-35,000, depending on where you buy it,” Nutakki adds.
At Gobol.in, consumers can return a product within seven days—“no questions asked”, says Gupta. The website sells refurbished and surplus products, including mobile phones, laptops and LED television sets.
On Gobol.in, you can currently get a Nokia Lumia 920 for Rs.27,440. The damage? Its cardboard packaging was spoilt, and so it was returned. The phone itself wasn’t damaged and Nokia is selling it for Rs.32,639.
The warranties aren’t just coming from Gobol or GreenDust either—Samsung laptops come with a warranty directly from the Korean electronics giant.
Buyers have many options now. Companies such as Samsung and Apple offer exchange programmes to urge users to upgrade their phones. Sometimes they slash prices when introducing the next generation in the same line. Retailers across the country offer discounts on maximum retail value to build a loyal local customer base. What’s more, used products at sharp discounts can also be found on online marketplaces such as OLX.in. But these sellers of repaired and refurbished goods are not worried.
“It’s near-impossible for a retailer of new products to beat my price,” says Chaturvedi, “and a product on OLX does not come with a warranty.” Sites like GreenDust seem to offer the best of both worlds—a great deal, warranty and customer support. The catch is that you’re unlikely to get the latest model of any electronics product. But if you’re willing to wait a little, you might get some amazing deals.