Published on March 19th, 2011 | by Alvin


Look Who’s Talking – The Indian cut

My favourite telecom story involves the Philippines, ostensibly the texting capital of the world. Filipinos embraced the simple, effortless and inexpensive text messaging service with enthusiasm and took it to new heights when, in 2001, they successfully orchestrated 70 million text messages in one week as a demonstration against president Joseph Estrada, which led to his ouster from office. He was the second president in that country to be forced from office by people power.
Imagine that, a corrupt President SMSed out of office!

There’s a little aside here that is germane. The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands but the bulk of its fast-growing population lives on 11 of them. A mountainous country, it has around 20 active volcanoes and often also plays host to typhoons and storms. SMS is not just a wonderful way to keep in touch across 7000 islands at phone speeds without phone costs, it is also very convenient when you are trying to speak loud enough to be heard above volcanoes or typhoons.

My other favourite telecom story is the observation I once read on the BBC site where their telecom correspondent posited that pornography is the handmaiden of technology. He was making this fascinating observation, and this was almost four years ago, that the new 3G phones with their superior video capabilities would be a boon for delivering all kinds of ‘rude content’ to consumers. I don’t think this is such a startling point of view because if we know one thing about pornography, it’s that pornography will adopt the latest of technologies to deliver content quickly, securely and privately to customers.
It gets interesting. Two weeks ago, a reputed Mumbai daily predicted that India’s mobile subscriber base will balloon to 200 million subscribers by 2010. You think that’s a big number? Get this: The Indian government’s official estimate for the same time span is upwards of 250 million and a global telecom watchsite puts it at 348 million. Let’s go with 200 million … and that is a lot of mobile phone users, my friend, if you consider that the entire population of the Philippines, the ‘texting capital of the world’ and the country that brought down a president on the strength of its SMS-ing talent, is in the region of 90 million.
And we’re ready to amass our own collection of telecom titbits.
Some years ago, a leading political party recorded a short speech by its leading spokesman, and millions of phones in India rang, only to have the recipient of the call hear the PM speaking in their ear. The political rally had been brought to the voter. I heard of someone who did not cotton on, was so elated at the privilege of getting a call from the PM that she tried to engage the distinguished gentleman in conversation till, confused by his apparent obliviousness to what she was saying, she realised he was not actually on the line.

At about the same time, a Delhi student used his mobile phone to record his girlfriend in the middle of an intimate moment and circulated it. The furore it caused meant that the mean clip circulated even more from phone to phone all across the country.
And every owner of a mobile phone will have a bunch of stories to tell about being pestered every week by a couple of pesky advertisements from their service provider.
On a saner marketing note, last week, one of India’s biggest telecom companies announced a tie-up with a film production house to distribute a short English movie to its subscribers.
And in the opening days of February, I just added a third little ‘favourite telecom story’ to my collection of telecom titbits: On Feb 1, 2007, at the very first national Mobile Security India 2007 seminar held to discuss issues related to mobile theft, the keynote speaker laid on the assemblage a rather startling statistic – that more than Rs 500 crore worth of mobile phones are lost or stolen annually.
Take the fact that incoming calls are free as long as the recipient of the call is within his home circle. Imagine an NRI son driving from Washington to LA in the USA, calling his father in a village somewhere in India. The dad takes the call at no charge, having been required to spend only enough money to be in possession of a basic phone and keep it active. Son and home can speak for as long as the son wills, with no financial repercussions of the call back home.
Hey, this completely robs distance of it sting. You don’t need absence to make the heart grow fonder, a good network can do the job.
This probably means that the emotional cost of the migration of peoples to places of opportunity will be vastly diminished. The terror of alienation, the angst of abandonment is gone. One call (speed dial, that too!) and you are listening to a loved one’s voice. The forces of change that tore apart the universe of the joint family system have been stemmed.
I watch it firsthand. My driver, Shiv, has family in Benares. He calls his young wife once in a couple of days to koochie-coo in chaste Bhojpuri. He speaks to his little children, squealing with delight on the phone. He speaks lovingly and reverentially to his parents. When his niece was born, his brother called and my driver beamed all the way home. He was particularly tickled that he knew within the half hour.
Often when I get into my car at night to go home, I can see Shiv has a happy air to him, and I know he’s called home that day. I realise every single time that the pain of separation has been completely removed, that there is now not just the delight of being able to stay in touch effortlessly, but also the pride of being able to do it with a new technology. And that pride should not be viewed as just a sweet little thing. It’s a very crucial phenomenon: Shiv and his family have something all the ‘padhe-likhe shehar ke log’ have, and they are a real, real-time, part of this great new world around them.

We can all debate and discuss the demographic implications of these developments. But what is even more fascinating is what a simple facility like this does to the basic sense of life of a human being. Do we realise what millions of people, who otherwise saw themselves as on the fringes, now feel because they can participate? Do you realise what a 10-rupee recharge means to someone who can only afford Rs 10? Think of it: because you cannot tell if a phone has a prepaid or post-paid number just by looking at the instrument, the person holding the instrument is entitled to an ‘equal-to-you’ feeling.
Right under our noses in the city, the doodhwallas and bhajiwallas and the baniya across the street all have mobile phones. That makes it possible for them to offer you ‘customised service’, for the cost of an old cycle and an errand boy. Let’s put aside the extraordinary world of convenience it brings to us and try and appreciate the extraordinary world of possibilities it brings them, not just financially but also in terms of self esteem.
Not so long ago, we self-importantly took a call on our mobile phone while we were buying our onions and potatoes, today the roadside grocer takes a call on his mobile phone with an expression shot at you that wonders why you didn’t call and were silly enough to walk all the way to his shop. I call the general store downstairs and order what I need; the boy in half pants who comes with a big jute bag to deliver them has a mobile phone! And if he gets a call, I adore the sheer élan with which he takes it.
I love it. Long live the revolution.

(The writer is national creative director)

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17 Responses to Look Who’s Talking – The Indian cut

  1. susanth.g (10mba52) says:

    people keep changing to technology and a luxury of yesterday is a necessity of today. and you have various tariffs so any one can have a phone and make a call to their friends or so.
    finally it makes communication faster.

  2. jijo john vj (10mba60) says:

    We can say way, the dream of our old parents is now possible with the cheapest way………
    And in few year it will develop lot more >>>>

  3. jijo john vj (10mba60) says:

    We can say way, the dream of our old parents is now possible with the cheapest way………
    And in few year it will develop lot more

  4. anaskallingal.10mba04 says:

    the power of technology is enormous the world is start using it in a big way (eg:-Egypt),but it has a lot more to do what it already did.we will be witnessing its power in future.correct handling of this will only make survival of every organisation,leaders,etc….other wise the power of the the technology will be like daweeds vs goliath

  5. anand says:

    reaching a person through mobile today is like opening the heart n mind of tat person directly n putting it in.. sometime a msg or call may irriate a person to core at his busy time but in case of msg when he sits back free n look after the msgs that he had received that day then it could yield his attention.. the privacy in msgng will also help marketing of certain products reach customers well n good..

  6. SOORAJ R P (10MBA44) says:

    It is one of the new media of marketing. For eg while Anna hazare done his protest against the anti corruption this media helps the express the opinion toward the matter.

  7. revanth kumar , 10mba39 says:

    Now days the relationships are depending upon the phone calls and messages made by the person. People are more caring about the network problem than personal problem. It is also one of the fast growing marketing media.

  8. raj krishnan (10mba35) says:

    mobile is a very needful for people now a days. marketing is done through mobile phone . most of the mobile connection companies are providing free messages so that the marketing are done through mobile phone.

  9. diju chandran says:

    Similar to the internet media. But could reach a wider audience compared to the internet media….!!!

  10. sreeraj.p says:

    though there are certain limitations it can reach customers side very soon . because 99% of world population are using mobile phones. it is a better way to market products through mobiles

  11. mithun.puthalath 10mba26 says:

    modern world the mobile have a great role…….it will help the people for chatting and more chance to cheating.

  12. nicholas nithin abraham says:

    sir , we know that mobile phones are very popular and many are using phone.this will help to increace the marketing of product and could know the latest detailes of the products.

  13. Eldho Varghese says:

    nowadays mobile phone r used worldwide , use of marketing with mobile is cool idea , and it would be a huge success in future also !!

  14. Shiva Nadar (10mba28) says:

    Best thing a telecom industry can provide to the mumbaiker’s is by providing a good network for the people travelling in local trains!!

  15. Shameerroshan(10mba41) says:

    Now social networks also using mobile phone message for informing about new comments. so mobile phones are the wonderful technology to market any product to every one in the world…

  16. james makkil 10mba19 says:

    with mobile marketing one to one marketing is made very easy. a disadvantage with mobile marketing is that they call us most of the time while we are busy..

  17. alex joseph 10mba02 says:

    although there is facebook, twitter, myspace etc people still use for communication and corporates even use mobile for marketing

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