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Swankier Pantip Plaza faces testing “new” IT market

Reopened mall must balance evolution and the old values that made it famous

Pantip Plaza in Pratunam used to be known as a poor man’s computer paradise. Not any more. The place now has a new, sparkling look, bigger parking lot and revised business concept featuring squeaky-clean shops and restaurants. All of the changes will test the developer’s belief that Thailand’s information technology evolution has reached the point where the market is far bigger than it once was.
It’s a little ironic to say that most customers in the IT market are now those with little or zero knowledge about mother-boards, hard drives, RAM or drivers. Before it was closed down for renovation, Pantip was a must-go place if you were streetwise computer geeks who knew all that stuff inside and out and didn’t want to spend obscene money on brand-name products.
Pantip Plaza’s regular visitors went there by bus or taxi, many carrying desk-top computers that they put together themselves with the help of shop attendants that treated customers like misbehaving children.
The good old days are long gone. The Pantip developer’s unspoken idea is that the IT market is no longer for computer geeks, and that the “old setting” of Pantip might be scaring away a lot of potential customers, who were intimidated or turned off by large volumes of interior computer parts on display, shop windows strewn with printed papers advertising their “specifications”, and vendors who probably suited flea markets better.
In many ways, the developer’s assumption is right. The Pantip of old fell victim to the fast growth of the IT market.
Everyone, with or without “high-tech” knowledge, now wants to try new mobile phones or computer tablets, and “applications” are making things that used to be so out-of-this-world difficult simple enough. If Pantip Plaza continued to cater to the geeks, the place could lose out to emerging new competitors.
But the trick is how to strike a balance. While the transforming market has warranted the new business concept, the management of the shopping complex will have to rely on the very same thing that made Pantip Plaza popular – its reputation as an unrivalled playground
of high-tech enthusiasts, whether they are rich or poor. If that
reputation is gone, the renovated Pantip could have a shorter life
span than an Adobe version.
Nostalgia aside, the old Pantip was a place that bred know-how and created talent. Many shop workers earned expertise that could not be taught in schools or universities. Some went on to have better lives. A lot of customers, in learning to chop and change or plug and play, became some sort of experts themselves. This “value” of the old Pantip Plaza might not be yielding tangible business
benefits, but it’s a great value all the same.
The new Pantip Plaza stems from business necessities. Yet the old one also reflected the IT landscape of its day, although it had its flaws, like the nightmarish parking area. The old Pantip gave customers, shop attendants and fledging business owners great learning experiences, something that beautiful sales uniforms and glittering shelves displaying glamorous brand names may not be able to match.
It’s a big challenge how the new Pantip Plaza can keep the “soul” of the old one. If it can’t, it will be just one of the IT malls that are sprouting up everywhere. If it can, Pantip Plaza Pratunam will be able to hold a special status in the fast-developing IT market.

Published : September 04, 2016

By : The Nation