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Pudupet: Where your car gets a makeover

Deeptha Sreedhar | Updated on August 18, 2013

FROM THE LATEST imported car spare parts to original spares, and for restoringvintage and classic automobiles, Pudupet is a one-stop destination for second-handautomotive spare parts.

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It started out with 20 shops in the 1940s. Today, the Pudupet auto market in central Chennai has 1,000 shops dealing mainly in spare parts, fabrication, mechanical maintenance and modification for almost any kind of automated machine. In short, it offers the potential for complete and cost-effective makeovers for all kinds of vehicles.

Since its inception, the auto market in the Pudupet area has become so popular that it appealed to the State government and the Chennai Corporation to create an ‘Auto Nagar’, on the lines of the ones created for automobile traders in Coimbatore, Madurai and Mettupalayam. Today, it boasts of 1,659 traders spread across seven streets.

Nowadays, most of the accessories are already fitted by the carmakers, making it easier for the customer to pick up a “fully-loaded” vehicle. This has not affected business at Pudupet, though, as consumers still want to further customise their new vehicles, says auto industry executive R. Ronak.

The spare parts currently in demand are the “remote lock”, an aftermarket, cheaper variant than the ones dealers offer. This is mainly used for car security and as a convenient remote door-opening mechanism.

Budget shoppers

“Accessories such as rear-view mirrors, headlights, bumpers, grills, rims and tail-lights are also heavily in demand.

They are all factory-approved second-hand goods, and are called AMP (aftermarket parts). These parts are designed to look like the original but are cheaper.

“They do not last very long because most of them are of Chinese make but, if looked after well, can often last up to five years,” says Jaffer, a dealer.

He adds that “a sporty, modern look, available cheap, is the new trend”. This auto hub caters to budget shoppers who are seeking a luxurious look for their vehicle. Dushyant Mehta, an IT professional who has been shopping from Pudupet since college says, that one shouldn’t shop blindly here, and doing some homework on the product to be bought is very important.

Since it is an open market, bargaining and verifying prices from store to store is a must.

If one is buying an electrical item, one must always ask for an on-the-spot test as these products do not come with a warranty, and there is no exchange policy. “It does have a nice bonus, though. Everything sold at Pudupet is 10-15 times cheaper than showroom prices”, adds Dushyant.

Niche products

The market caters to niche needs too, from a rare spare part for a vintage car to a tyre or screw for an old bicycle. In some cases, as with imported cars, replacing a faulty part may be difficult and highly expensive. “The best part about Pudupet is that you will never walk out without what you came looking for,” says S. Manimaran, a dealer at Pudupet. Jaffer, too, says indigenous parts come from junkyards and factory seconds or excess production. And foreign spare parts are mostly imported from China, Bangkok, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The Motor Vehicle Spare Parts Traders Development Association (MVSPDA), which started in 1987, has been instrumental in nurturing the auto hub. The association plays the important role of resolving disputes among traders and creating a forum to link traders with the government. The association also protects the market from stolen vehicle parts by carrying out regular raids.

Relocation

Despite its 50- 60 per cent growth record compared to regular company showrooms, Pudupet’s days as an auto hub may be numbered. With rising traffic congestion hindering the business, the need to relocate was discussed and articulated. The merchants appealed to the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority to create an ‘Auto Nagar’ on the outskirts of the city but no action was taken. The government later decided to relocate them to Maraimalai Nagar as part of the Cooum river Beautification Project and, when this did not work out, the location was changed yet again to Appur village, near Singaperumalkoil,on the outskirts of Chennai. Discussions are still on and a consensus is yet to be arrived at. Though some might the Pudupet hub a “necessary evil” — as it has been linked to nefarious activities such as car-theft, smuggling — others see Pudupet as an inexpensive alternative to automotive requirements.

(Deeptha is an undergraduate student of Journalism at MOP Vaishnav College, Chennai.)

Published on August 18, 2013

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