Sunday, August 26, 2012

Walk the Talk, The Indian Way.

Recently, a friend of mine was re-visiting India after a gap of some eight or ten years. On one of the evenings, few of us, who were his old friends, decided to get together and invited this American friend of mine, for a chat. During our relaxed chat, someone asked my friend about the biggest change he has seen in India since last ten years. I had thought that he might have to ponder over for few moments to reply this question. I was wrong. The answer came back almost immediately, since he had noted this change right from his arrival at the airport in Mumbai. The greatest change which my friend had observed was none other that the abundant use of mobile phones by almost everyone in India.

Over last few months, I got done some major re-modeling in my house. I was really amazed to observe that almost every tradesman, right from a labourer giving a helping hand to a bricklayer to the plumbers, carpenters and wiremen, all were always and invariably seen with a mobile phone. The phone model which these tradesmen used had a special facility. There was a special button, which if pressed, converted the phone into a flashlight. This made is very easy for these tradesmen to look into dark nooks and corners while doing their jobs. I also came to know that the mobile phones with this facility are amongst the lowest priced models in the market. Some of the fellows used to listen to music while working, blaring out from their phones. After I inquired with them, I found out that their phones have built in FM radios so that they can listen to a variety of Bollywood songs from a wide choice of FM stations, all the time. Now since my house re-modeling project is over, I miss those mobile phones blaring music all the time.
Few days back, I read an interview of a fish trader from Mumbai. This man essentially is a middleman between fishing trawlers bringing in fresh lots of fish on the docks and the big fish processing export houses. He uses mobile phones to check with fishing trawlers, the kind of fish produce they have on the boat even when they have not actually docked in. He conveys this information to the factories, secures their orders and relays the orders back to fishing trawlers. The fish are sold even before they have touched the shore. Earlier, when mobile phones were not so common, he had to visit the docks every morning wasting four to five hours just traveling.
A mobile phone happens to be one of the very few electronic gadgets that have entered the life of an ordinary Indian. Radio and Television can be included in this list. However the way mobile phones have become popular in India is just unimaginable. There are more that 550 million mobile connections in India as per last report. Which means that every alternate Indian is a mobile phone user. The mobile phones have suddenly catapulted the Indian people as users of high end technology. There can be no doubt that the tremendous foresight and long term strategy of the Indian telecom regulator as well as mobile service providers along with their bold marketing drives are instrumental for this major leap. Some of the bold initiatives like completely free incoming calls, outgoing calls  at the rate of 1 paisa per second (0.02 US cents per second) have really paid back well with a profuse expansion in the number of customers.

The mobile phones available to Indian customers may not be technology savvy like Apple’s I phone. Indian mobile service providers however, even while using 2G standards, which are outdated in more advanced countries, provide excellent high value services to their customers like music and video downloads, ringtones, banking facilities, stocks and commodity market quotes. The people’s car ‘Nano’ produced by ‘Tata Motors’ was widely acclaimed all over the world. However the services given by mobile service providers in India and that too at an incredibly rock bottom rate are equally important and path breaking. Considering the growing size of India mobile phone market, many foreign service provides are trying to enter the fray. They would however have to prove themselves against Indian Telecom giants like Bharati and Reliance to achieve any significant success.

The number of users and the coverage of Internet services in India are still lagging behind other parts of the world. Major reason for this appears to be the unaffordable high cost of computers and broadband services in India. 3G mobile service has now started in India but is not very popular because it is expensive. When this service becomes available at affordable cost through all service providers along with availability of low cost 3G internet mobile smart  phones, there can be no doubt, that the number of internet users in India could easily cross hundreds of millions. This technology has tremendous potential in certain fields like Bank transactions and Share and Commodity trading.
However, advent of mobile phone technology, does not necessarily bring in more business and profits as our fish trader friend mentioned above, has regretfully found out . He realized that his big fish processor clients, also have started contacting the fish trawlers directly on Sea, to find out the fish produce that is coming in and the going rate. Our fish trader friend finds that his margins are getting squeezed day by day because of this. However it is just a part of the game. The transparency of any commercial deal struck through use mobile phones or Internet phones is the key and that is what markets in India want and makes their use so popular.

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