Also known as ‘Spare Parts Road’, K.T. Street or Kalamma Temple Street with its criss-crossing lanes and by-lanes is the hub of all electronic items available at a ‘reasonable cost’. The road is steeped in history that was once dominated by goldsmiths who were dexterous in creating exquisite ornaments by melting the shiny yellow metal. From the street of goldsmiths, K.T. Street has transformed itself into a world of computers, remote controls, CCTV cameras, mobiles and their accessories. Take a walk with this Weekend Star Supplement to explore the historical street, its rich past and its present state.
By S. Kenneth Shishir
[Pics. by M.N. Lakshminarayana Yadav]
From Real Gold to Fibre World of cameras, computers, CCTVs
As I walked down a narrow lane, I see industrious activity — customers haggling with shop owners for lesser price, shop owners in turn convincing customers that it is the best price that he could offer for a ‘quality product’. At another corner, men are in a hurry to settle accounts for the day and a trader moving over to be of service to a queue of customers as he has a dozen more waiting for him. Inside the shop there is another assistant fetching the goods as per customer specifications.
A roadside tea vendor is selling the hot beverage from his flasks and makes brisk business as he pours tea to a small and thin plastic cup. Even if one presses the cup lightly, the beverage spills out. As the rush increases at the shops, the tea vendor’s business increases too and people do not bother about the quality of the cup. They just gulp it down.
Here, roadside eateries and snack shops are open till late in the night to cater to the demand of growing customers, especially in the evenings. From hot chilli bajjis to pakodas and bondas one will get various types of snacks to sustain them till dinner.
Famous for hi-fi gadgets
This is a brief introduction to the ever-busy K.T. Street or Kalamma Temple Street in the heart of the city – Central Business District. The street was once famous for goldsmiths who used to create splendid designs with their improvised gold-melting and polishing equipment. Now, people throng this street to buy electronic items, hardware, mobile accessories and other miscellaneous paraphernalia.
The size of the shop and the smile on the owner’s face are in striking contrast here and a customer is compelled to buy and he usually falls for the convincing tactics of the trader or the shop owner. It is a hub of all electronic items available at a ‘reasonable cost’.
Biman Masood, a regular visitor to K.T. Street for the past 15 years says, “I come here to buy pen drives, CDs and mobile accessories. Everything here is at least 10 per cent cheaper than the market price. And mobile showrooms charge you extra in the name of taxes. Here too, there are showrooms that are no less than the swanky ones that are seen on D. Devaraja Urs Road, Sayyaji Rao Road and surrounding areas.”
Persuasion, patience is the key
Each shop owner is busy persuading his customers to buy his goods and at least a dozen of them refuse to talk to casual conversers during their business hours. With hundreds of shops in the same locality, survival of the fittest seems to be the mantra for the shopkeepers and they try hard to attract customers. “Once they come to our shop, we are sure of making business as we have the capability of convincing them on the quality and price,” says a trader who sells mobile handsets.
However, what used to be a place where one would get that rare accessory or spare part that might not be found anywhere else is losing its USP, thanks to online shopping and easy availability of such materials and peripherals everywhere.
Narrow roads a disadvantage
A major disadvantage of the K.T. Street is its narrow roads criss-crossing each other. Vehicles, especially two-wheelers move on this road in break-neck speeds and people have to negotiate between speeding vehicles, narrow road and the steps of the shops that are almost on the road — one negligent step might lead to accidents.
“Earlier, people would come here because this was the only place in the city where you could get electronic items. But today, all these items are available in different parts of the city and people prefer buying from the shop close to their locality. Moreover the road is narrow here and it is very difficult to get a parking space,” says Ramesh Kumar who has a small mobile accessory shop on this road.
He points out that most of his customers are regulars. With a sense of pride, he asserts, “We bring our items all the way from Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. “The customer has an advantage if he comes here. He can approach a dozen shops before he makes his purchase,” he says.
Name it and you get it
Be it a small screw or a switch, mobile phone or CCTV camera, any popular gadget or utility tool, you name it and you will have it here at K.T. Street. It is a one-stop-street for all electrical and electronic items including computer peripherals, electric wires, cables, mobile phones and accessories, electrical appliances, music systems, speakers, remote control of all TV sets, electronic gadgets etc.
Both sides of K.T. Street have these shops and the street begins from Dasaprakash Hotel opposite Prabha Theatre in Kurubarageri. It stretches along the narrow lane, crosses the Irwin Road and finally ends at the junction of Pulakeshi Road in Mandi Mohalla.
The street is extremely narrow and congested but it is totally another kind of shopping experience for people as they have the luxury of walking and looking around to decide on buying things of their choice.
All electric and electronic items are available here — from genuine brands to cheaper ones. If one insists on quality products, the trader will offer genuine products from a range of popular brands with warranty and after-sales service. He will also show you local brands depending on your choice, but without any guarantee — it might conk off the moment you start using it.
Once famous for Goldsmiths
Earlier, the entire area was famous for Devanga community and goldsmiths, who belonged to Vishwakarma community. Goldsmiths dotted the street and they sat for the entire day and sometimes night to prepare jewelleries as per customer specifications. They used improvised tools to melt the gold and design the ornaments. Now there are only a few goldsmiths in this area and the goldsmith generation youngsters have either started their own business or moved into jewellery conglomerates.
The street is now dominated by traders of Jain community. Along with the famous Kalamma Temple, there is Chowdeshwari Temple and Sri Kalabhairaveshwara Temple. Since Kalamma Temple became more and more popular, the street came to be known as ‘Kalammana Gudi Rasthe’ or Kalamma Temple Street.
The road has a mixed culture and with people getting to see people from different communities living and doing business on a same stretch. Though the road has a long history, unfortunately, it lacks basic amenities. This being a narrow road, there is no sufficient parking facilities. There has been a constant demand from vendors to identify a dedicated parking space to prevent people from parking haphazardly all over the place.
Interestingly, among a few goldsmith shops in the street there are expert ones that certify gold purity to jewellery shops. Suppose a person gets gold ornaments to sell in a jewellery shop or a pawn-broker’s shop, the gold is immediately sent to K.T. Street for certification. Goldsmiths there test the purity of the gold and issue certificates. And without this certificate, no jeweller will buy gold.
Kalamma, the deity of historical street
One of the oldest temples in city built during the rule of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar is Kalamma Temple. It has a history of about 250 years and is presently being maintained by a Committee which comprises members of Vishwakarma community.
The land for the temple was granted by Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar to the Vishwakarma community and the temple has Goddess Kalikamba as the presiding deity. The temple complex also houses temples dedicated to of Lord Shiva and Lord Narayana (Vishnu). Nearby, the temples of Goddess Chamundeshwari, Goddess Gayathri, Veerabhadraswamy and Siddappaji are located.
Members of Vishwakarma community hold elections once in every five years to elect the Committee members to look after the temple administration. The temple also organises its annual festival. Apart from this, it also organises Girija Kalyana, Kalikamba Janmotsava, Kamateshwara Ratnamudi Utsava, Rathasaptami Utsava and Veerabhadraswamy Utsava. The Committee has rented out a few shops through which it generates income for temple maintenance.
“We don’t sell duplicate products”
Dilip Kumar, President of Mysore Electronics Dealers’ Association, who owns Computer Shoppee on K.T. Street, said that most of the people have a wrong assumption that traders on K.T. Street sell duplicate products, which in fact is wrong. “We are dealers of well known companies. Sadly, online sales are affecting our business,” he said.
“Added to the slump in business due to online sales, lack of good parking facility is a put-off to the customers. Also, civic issues such as frequent clogging of drains and manholes results in sewage water overflowing on the road. All these contribute to the loss in business,” he added.
Mentioning about traders shifting to new businesses, Dilip said that most of the traders selling electronic spare parts have shifted to mobile phone sales and service and computer peripherals as it is a good business.
Suresh of Arihanth Electronics on KT. Street said that the competition is very high now with less profit and added that online sales are affecting business. “While it is a person-to-person contact in our shops, online sales are just about impersonal sales where the seller does not know the distributor or the customer. If a product is purchased from our shop one can have a guarantee of replacement if it is in warranty period. There is no such guarantee in online purchases,” he said.