Friday, October 13, 2006

Cellphones everywhere

If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, I got this from my last train journey. No, this journey was on a Bangalore-Nanded train - the kind of train which is lowest on the food chain when it comes to waiting on the sidings for a crossing. The last anecdotal evidence from a train journey, triggered off a train of posts on poverty etc., but this one is not about poverty - not at interim thoughts.

Yes, there were beggars on the train, there were a ton of people who sold things ranging from sweet lime to hairpins to coffee and there were another ton of people who were the day trippers- those who use the mainline train as a local train much to the chagrin of us reservation passengers. There were a humongous number of students taking the train to college, which is a good sign.

My son was playing with my cellphone, which is something he does every now and then. As he was playing with my cellphone, a none too primitive Nokia 3100, a nearby passenger offered his cellphone to my son. This cellphone was a few notches better than my phone complete with camera - I tried to search the model on the Nokia webpage, but couldn't locate it (it was some 6000 series0. The fact that my son now had a choice of 2 cellphones caused another kid nearby to bawl and one of the other co- travellers offered him his cellphone - a Nokia 6600. Now, both these individuals were regular sleeper class travellers - as distinct from the regular AC traveller - and both hailed from rural Karnataka. The point to note is that handsets were not regular 1100s or 2100s - these were high end handsets.

If anecdotal evidence were all that were required, this was proof enough that the cellphone revolution is well and truly here with all its bells and whistles. Heres a rediff report on the same.

According to the February 2006 report by ORG-Gfk, 57 per cent of the total handset sales in the top 35 cities were colour screen mobile phones.

That's a significant change: in October 2004, colour screen phones accounted for just 25 per cent of sales. But a dash of colour is not enough. Roughly one-fourth of the colour screen phones that are sold also have cameras.

And there is a market for these high end handsets, not just in the big cities and not just with the urban rich/upwardly mobile.

Many cab/auto/bus drivers in Bangalore have pretty jazzy phones, colour screens, polyphonic ringtones and even Nokia 6600s with cameras. Throughout the trip, I saw how phones have become more and more pervasive. The number of cellphone users on the train was unbelievable. Phones have made a big difference to people in India - our bus (a local RTC bus plying Mantralayam to Raghavendra Swami Ashram) had a puncture and the driver whipped out his cellphone and informed his "boss" that his bus has gone kaput. To see regular drivers and ordinary people empowered and using a once touted status symbol as a utility was truly a great sight to behold.

Previous posts on the cell revolution in India: For the micro entrepreneur and mobile phones and technology.

1 comment:

Paddy said...

While your point is on mobile penetration, a large part of the market for Nokia 6600 is the second hand market- espeically where the elite class have moved to the N-series, the palms, the O2 and the like. Infact you would see a lot of people in mumbai locals carrying O2 and the like...not coz they are high flyers..but more to play jaw breaker and listen to music !!

On a different note, the mobile telecom players make a lot of money in value added services like caller tunes and ofcourse on a host of reality prog which ask you to SMS.