We had seen cases where electronic and notebook manufacturers have made attempts to discourage users from buying online. Few companies used sentences from ‘They might be genuine’ to even more serious ‘We may not be able to honour warranty’ in a public domain, including via social network or press release. So far, they were limited to cameras and notebooks, but it seems that Gigabyte motherboard sales in India may follow the same spin.
On September 21st, Gigabyte India recommended that the user should buy from a retail store (or retail store’s website) rather than online websites. Though names were not mentioned, its safe to say that they were referring to major online retail outlets like Amazon, Flipkart, etc. To be fair, Gigabyte India didn’t say anything to discourage online sellers in market places that maybe illegally imported or duplicate items- or indirectly threatening users indirectly by saying that warranty would not be honoured.
Gigabyte India also didn’t answer my question in public. Putting a vague recommendation with no reasoning creates confusion and also alienates buyers to look towards other branding. Why are manufacturers hurting a market which helps to raise overall country-wide sales is downright confusing. Most of these sellers usually have a retail and prefer selling via Amazon, Flipkart, etc. to get higher sales. Its convenient for users as they can compare prices and specification depending on the site that allows it. There have been many stores in popular areas that are known to sell hardware via parallel import, but you don’t see manufacturers maintaining a blacklist for such stores so that users can stay away from it. Another most beneficial part of purchasing via stores is that prices and stocks are updated in real time, unlike the retail store-owned online websites. Amazon and Flipkart usually behave as an intimidatory if anything goes wrong. In the case of offline or purchasing via store owned online store, its either the seller or the service centers. Imagine the issue you will have to go through if the product is physically damaged, and the store owner refuses to do anything about it. Companies may or may not do anything, considering they’re not the sealers and the responsibility falls on the retailer. You end up in a soup, at the mercy of the retailer, assuming he is non co-operative.
However, readers should take note that such ‘recommendations’ would not affect them if they buy online irrespective of the site, provided its imported by the distributor with a valid bill. Its not like as if they threatened not to honour warranty if purchased via online like the case in case of a notebook maker. In other words, this is probably to satisfy few disgruntled dealers who may be affected by the competition.
In regards to addressing parallel imports.
Companies need to realize the obvious, irrespective of the brand: Selling parallel imports are present online as well as offline. There have been even more cases where people ended up purchasing reversed-engineered graphic cards where users fail to realize until its too late. There have been cases where due to a long list of sub-distributors, individuals managed to sneak in mechanical HDDs that are originally sold to OEMs with one-year warranty on the serial number. There have been cases where flash drives with well-known brands were sold in public places and via online stores. Its also not very hard to replicate importer’s stickers and sell it off as if its imported via authorised distributors.
But most of these incidents have been happening well before e-commerce websites started.
Besides, if the online sellers in such market places are selling items imported via authorized distributors and issues bill, the brand must honour warranty at all costs within its terms and conditions. Neither the brand nor the service centers can discriminate such users unless they indirectly plan on denting their reputation. Therefore, the recommendation in reality is a scare tactic with no teeth and claws. That doesn’t mean a brand can say via their own pages that users are recommended to buy only from retail stores. For end users who don’t bother to know such information, it doesn’t exude confidence over a brand’s after sales service.
But having a blanket mentality towards online to battle parallel import (assuming that’s Gigabyte India motherboard division’s real reason) is not the way to go forward. In the end, this creates fear towards existing and potential buyers. As of now, Gigabyte may have been the first PC component brand in India to discourage users from buying via online marketplaces. I suspect that established brands would follow this trend slowly (unless they see the bigger picture), and online market places will encourage brands that have not yet come to India or unable to make considerable sales. Changing tactics according to the direction of the winds will simply alienate buyers and ignore their products altogether. Can Gigabyte India really afford to do that? Especially when Gigabyte VGA management is now formed in India.
Your guess is as good as mine.