About 50,000 pirated DVDs of Microsoft Windows 7 are estimated to have been sold here since the official launch on Oct 22, generating unaccounted business of around Rs 50 lakh (nearly $100,000).
The reason for the allure of the pirated versions: These cost Rs 40-Rs 250 in Naza Market in Hazratganj in Lucknow, drawing buyers from not only the rest of Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand but also Nepal and Bangladesh.
"This is the biggest market in the region," said a shopkeeper in Hazratganj, claiming at least 50,000 DVDs of the pirated Windows 7 have been sold since hitting the local markets within 24 hours of the official launch, fetching sellers about Rs 50 lakh so far.
The legal version of the new operating system launched by Microsoft Corp costs between $150-$300 (Rs 7,500-Rs 15,000) in the international markets. The company, however, tagged its prices 20 per cent below international rates in India, where it is available in the Rs 6,000-Rs 11,000 range through official channels.
Despite the discounted company rates, buyers are opting for the pirated version.
"Why invest Rs 10,000 when it is available for Rs 250?" asked Pramod Yadav, a student pursuing a Master of Computer Applications (MCA) course.
Added Mohit Singh, who runs a computer hardware and software maintenance company: "We pay only for the DVD as we are regular customers. A DVD hardly costs Rs 20-40."
Most computer service providers or "regular customers" in Lucknow and elsewhere in India use pirated software, contended Nishant Kumar, a software engineer with HCL Technologies in Greater Noida.
According to him, what makes the pirated operating systems more attractive is that cheap pirated anti-virus software is also freely available.
"A lot of anti-virus software, for example Avast, is available on the Internet," Kumar said, adding that it was equally effective and has the same service life.
Those selling pirated Windows 7 deny doing anything illegal.
"There are over 200 shops in Naza Market. All have everything you want. We are not doing anything illegal as everything is available on the Internet," said a shopkeeper not willing to be named.
"We are only transferring and supplying to buyers who include students, professionals and even big business houses."
Those selling authentic software are unhappy.
"Be it software or encyclopaedia, everything is available in pirated form within 24 hours. We do not get the expected business," Amit Mishra of Newgen Technologies, the authorised distributor of Compaq, HP, Microsoft and Lenovo in Hazratganj, told IANS.
The police express helplessness in combating piracy. "We know what is going on for the past couple of decades. But we cannot act on our own. We need a formal complaint to act or else you (the media) will come down on us," police spokesperson AK Pathak said.
Besides software, the Naza Market and the Naka Market in the Naka area are also famous for producing CDs and DVDs of newly released Bollywood movies within 24 hours.
"You name the movie and you will have the CD, DVD the next day," boasted Harnam Singh, a Naka shopowner.