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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Mobiles Churning a Tech Revolution for Consumers

Anupam Arya
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Anupam Arya
Just a decade ago, in India, mobile phone was a status symbol in the hands of the chosen few. Many aspired for it but could not afford it. A few enterprising mobile-user-wannabees, well-versed in the good old Indian jugaad (a locally contrived motor vehicle used as a means of low cost transportation in rural areas) even put together mobile-look-alike shells to serve this need. The proud shell owners were not shy about pulling out their ‘handsets’ with flourish and displaying them at prominent locations to impress the unsuspecting audience.

Fast forward a few years, and a popular television advertisement shows a busy intersection, in what appears to be a tier-3 town in India. A phone rings and everyone takes out their handsets to check, but then, they all realize that the ringing phone belongs to the paan-wallah’s mundu (assistant of the betel leaf seller). The advertisement goes on to show the assistant talking to his family in the village, enquiring about his cousin’s marriage. The difference today is that the paan-wallah and his buddies are not just talking with folks back home but are also using ‘missed-calls’ effectively to communicate with their customers and bosses. One ring means the chauffeur has arrived, two means that he is delayed, and for more elaborate communication the boss knows that he has to call-back.

The Short Message Service (SMS) messages are not just for keeping up with friends, but are a valuable link into the world of television and can be used effectively to vote for changing the end sequence of popular TV soaps, to determine compatibility with the significant ‘other’ half, or to participate in various contests. SMS contests have become extremely popular in India, and interestingly more women have participated in these contests than men.

Today a young engineer discards his student-days handset just as soon as he gets a job and goes on to buy a new model every six months. Quite often the latest purchase costs twice as much as the monthly income, but it’s a luxury he is willing to splurge on. At the workplace he may not openly demand (as yet) that both his handset and desktop environments should give him equal mobility and flexibility of operation but he is very aware of how to juggle both platforms to instant message with personal and professional friends with equal ease.

So what is the outlook for the next decade? Pundits declare that prepaid mobile is expected to continue to dominate with over 90 percent market share. The mobile tele-density is expected to rise from the current 39 percent to over 80 percent by 2014. In some metros, surprisingly the number of mobile subscribers is greater than the recorded population. But in rural India where 70 percent of the population resides mobile tele-density hovers below 30 percent. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), and the next 100 million subscribers are expected to come from rural markets. Compared to the UK or even the U.S., a significantly large percentage of Indian radio listeners recall advertisements on radio on mobile. Even the low end handsets costing around $20 have the radio as a feature. The mobile advertisements segment is expected to grow rapidly.


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