Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Curtain Call – Closing down of the HMT Lucknow Showroom

HMT watch showroom, Lucknow
My Association with HMT watch showroom,Lucknow started with my purchase of HMT Jawan watch from it. I had asked my co-brother to do me the favor of purchasing the watch and sending it to me in Bangalore.The generous staff members kept the showroom opened beyond the working hours and gave the necessary directions to my co-brother on phone as his driver sped through the lanes of lalbagh to help me get my watch. I ended up picking a Vijay lume and Janata deluxe as well along with Jawan. I visited Lucknow earlier this year and met with the other members of HMT watch collectors at the showroom . The showroom was at the verge of closure and it was sad to experience their state of affairs. 

A fellow HMT watch enthusiast and friend,Ashutosh Anand, from Lucknow who has been a regular at the showroom shares his experiences of his association with the showroom,below:

My family association with HMT Lucknow showroom goes back to 1991 when my Late Grandfather bought a HMT Quartz watch from HMT showroom, then located at the centre of the city i.e. M.G. Road, Lucknow.

I still have that watch in working condition, its original bill, box and warranty card booklet containing instructions and addresses of HMT showrooms and service centres across the country.
With time, as sales went down, HMT could not afford the rent of the showroom at MG Road and they had to be shifted to BN Road, Lalbagh area.

My association with HMT Lucknow Lalbagh showroom goes back to March 2012 when I visited Lucknow during my holidays. I did not know about the shifting of the showroom and searched its telephone number on yellow pages to check if it was open,called them and came to know about its new location and nearest landmark "Noor Manzil".It took me about an hour by auto and then cycle rickshaw to reach there, as the location was unknown to me.
The first appearance of the showroom, it had a big board, displaying HMT Company Watch Showroom -  a subsidiary of HMT Limited, a Government. of India undertaking which appeared painted more than a decade ago.When I entered, it appeared like an old hall or a government building, with high roofs, old window fittings near roof for natural light, wooden partitions for showroom, service centre and regional office.
I found 5 showcases with different categories of watches being displayed along with posters of prestigious HMT watches and one of Mahatma Gandhi on partition walls.The person there (who was the manager) asked me - what can I do for you. I said -  I am the same person who called up,our conversation thus started. Along with the manager, the other HMT employees there too who joined the conversation.As they rarely found people interested in HMT Watches, they were surprised to see my interest in and our conversation lasted for about two plus hours which was about watches, their experiences of golden days of HMT, their training days along with some tea and snacks.
I asked them if HMT Janata 12-3-6-9 was there in stock. (At that time I did not know it was known as Art Deco variant). I already had the Devanagri "Janata" printed variant. As the watch was not in showcase, the manager was kind enough to get searched it in the stocks and found one Tumkur made art deco Janata for me.I was really happy. He then showed me a series of ADSL automatic watches along with a newly released ADSL04. He recommended me ADSL04 and I bought that too along with the classic Janata.He prepared the bills and warranty cards for both watches and I came back with wishing them, thanks and "Fir Milenge" (till we meet again.)

After that, I could visit them only in 2014 when I had to get my grandfather's watch serviced and I bought a black dial Jhalak on this visit. The manager recognized me and this time too we again had a long chat. I used to tell them that I write my suggestions to HMT management to either start online shopping and deliver watches via India Post or to tally up with leading e-commerce websites and they used recognize my efforts with their inputs on it.
In September 2014 the news of shut down came. After which, I started visiting various HMT showrooms frequently, because I felt only a few days are left for the showroom to exist. I even had an opportunity to meet the General Manager of WFR while he was on visit there.

We were lucky to have organized, HMT Watch Collectors meet at Lucknow showroom this year before it closed. It was a nice time to meet Prashant, Vardhan along with HMT staff.
Unfortunately, HMT Lucknow showroom was in the list of showrooms to be phased out first as it could not generate enough revenue to survive on its own, the showroom was closed down in mid of April 2015.
Left to Right - Prashant Pandey, A Customer, Mr. Mathur (HMT Staff), Ashutosh Anand and Vardhan Mittal 
In my last few visits, I saw the managers and staff packing up all the watches in stocks, preparing inventory lists as they had to send them back to HMT, as last part of their duties. Finally, they had to close down the showroom cum office they were associated with for a long time.The service engineer who was on contractual wages became unemployed.It was a sad day for both the HMT staff as well as watch collectors like me.
I wish HMT management had taken steps to improve HMT watches presence and existence in market, their online presence, sales on e-commerce, I believe HMT employees would have not to see such a day...

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Curtain Call – Closing down of the HMT Bangalore Unity Building Showroom

HMT Showroom Unity Building
HMT company showroom in the Unity buildings, J.C.Road was one of the oldest HMT showroom in India. This showroom was opened in the early 70s and had visitors from all across the country and world. My association with the showroom started with a phone call to enquire about the availability of HMT Pilot watches. Soon, the showroom became my favourite hang out.I met many interesting people at the showroom and learnt from their experiences.I shared some of these experiences through my blogs Link blog 1 , Link Blog 2 . Few months back,HMT watch company decided to close its showroom in a phased manner and this showroom was one of them.After the closure of the showroom, Mr Bhagavan has taken up the charge of the new HMT showroom in Bangalore at first floor of Barton Center , M G Road Bangalore.I shall be posting a blog soon on my first visit to the showroom.

A fellow collector,blogger and friend Varun Iyengar was at the showroom on the day of closure and below is an eye witness account from him.

My journey with HMT has been since 2009 where I used to visit showrooms just to see the vast collection of HMT watches wich I never used to buy. I always used to consider myself an enthusiast rather than a collector of sorts. Incidentally my first watch was a Janata art deco variant followed by a couple of Pilots and Sonas.
Some of the HMTs that I purchased initially were from either the two showrooms in Bangalore one in Unity Building and other being Jalahalli (CSD). I used to prefer the Jalahalli showroom during my initial years since it was near to my place of work. Later as time passed I shifted to Unity Building due to its location. I used to spend my Saturday afternoons at the Unity building showroom looking at the red velvet steps in the showroom filled with an array of watches from the HMT stables. All these are history today.
Sometime in mid 2010 I had for the first time visited the Unity Building in search of a Janata for my classmate/colleague who was pestering me for a long time. Though I did not get one but got introduced to Mr. Bhagavan who introduced himself first and later I introduced myself saying I am an academician (and a student of sorts). He also gave me his visiting card. This meeting still reverberates in my mind whenever I here Unity Building from someone. In the same visit I also happen to pick up HMT Pilot which I gave it to one of my friend later. I have never tried to ask technical questions to Mr. Bhagavan all these years but have never failed to ask for watches that I can pick up. I also remember asking him a HMT Jawan for which his reply was try hard you will find it and I don’t have it. Later in years to come I have picked numerous watches from this showroom starting from the very basic HMT Vijays and Varuns to the classy Chronograph. I have also left a series of watches like HMT Sweekars thinking that I will have time to pick up later (which was a mistake that I made). The Unity Building has now become hotspot for all the HMT watch collectors and enthusiasts to meet, exchange notes and impart knowledge. For the last few years it had become a routine to meet some fantastic people and learn something new. But the sad part is the showroom is gone for ever.
Last year in the month of September the news of HMT closure shattered the hearts of many HMT collectors and enthusiasts. Then the news trickled saying all the showrooms would be closed. The first one to bite the dust in Bangalore was the Unity Building showroom. I got to know they would close on a certain day, and was not prepared to go and meet Mr. Bhagavan there because I was not ready to confront a disappointment. But one of my friend (a HMT collector) forced me to come to meet him at Unity Building which turned the tables. That was the last day of the showroom. I just entered the showroom and saw Mr. Bhagavan was arranging the watches in boxes and the tables were shifted to the corners. I spoke with him regarding the imminent closure and wished him all the best. I also in the meantime asked Mr. Bhagavan’s permission to take a picture of him to which his reply was a stern no but later he obliged for the same. I thanked him for all the help and also thanked him for helping out people all these years. After a long chat with Mr. Bhagavan finally the time had arrived for me to depart with a heavy heart. I bid good bye for one final time to the HMT showroom and head back home. Thank you HMT and its professionals for all what you have done for these many years and good bye. Here are some pictures from the last day of HMT Unity Building Showroom.

Mr. Bhagavan from Unity Building
The Final Journey for the Showroom Begins
Empty Racks in One of the Oldest Showrooms in Karnataka
The Final Hurrah - Showroom on the Last Day