The penetration of mobile phones into the Indian society is phenomenal. People of my generation ie those of us who in our mid twenties have seen a sea change. We have seen it as an ultra expensive odd looking devices with exorbitantly high usage charges which catered to the cream of the society and we are seeing now as a mass produced commodity which is going cheaper by the day and with the flooding of the Chinese mobiles the prices have fallen to unimaginable levels. For about 5000 bucks one could easily get a state of the art mobile which has the latest features which could be associated with any branded handset and at times they offer more too.
One gets to hear a lot about the mobile phones being abused and the jokes of a milk vendor or a farm labour using a mobile phone is not uncommon. Little do we realize how important these people who occupy a lower to middle income group are to the mobile cos and their business potential. The reason for this perception is the recent incident where I happened to strike a conversation with a cycle rickshaw puller.
I hired the rickshaw to go home from a friend's place and since it was half past nine, the road was quite empty. The empty road seems to be a rickshaw pullers paradise and he was going at a breakneck speed. When he was precariously negotiating the final turn, I was able to hear a mobile phone ringing and not to my surprise, he pulled one and had a gadget with bright flashing lights in his left hand. He had a short conversation, informing the person at the end about his destination and the time frame. I couldn't resist myself from asking him how he is able to manage the expenses and yes, I did ask.
I was surprised to hear that he spent about Rs. 150 every month for the connection and what was more interesting was the logic behind his usage. The logic is a simple Rs.30 recharge a week which means 4 recharges a month and one more in case of extraordinary circumstances and in all sums up to Rs. 150. Now, a person who earns about Rs.250-300 a day, managing Rs.30 shouldn't be a herculean task. The justification he gave for this expenditure is the even impressive. Shopkeepers from the nearby market areas have his contact number and when they have to transport goods to the a customer's house, they give him a call to see if he is around and can do the work.
Thus we come to the next question, is the 150 bucks spent in a month an expenditure or an investment. Obviously in this case it is a worthy investment. The mobile phone here has too many roles to play – a communication tool, a business facilitator, entertainment etc to name a few. No wonder, idea mobile uses Abhishek Bachan as a brand ambassador and rolling out advertisements aimed a totally new segment which is nothing but promising.