One of the recurring patterns I’ve been seeing of late is how mobile phones – not just the handset, but the system as a whole, have become drivers of innovation in emerging economies.
For those who have no fixed address, a phone in their pocket provides a connection to the rest of the world, and a means to be reached. The story of Jeevanlal Pitodia, the pavement dwelling vegetable seller without a fixed shop or stall triggered this thought. Neelakantan’s observations only fueled them – whether it was the cab driver or the junk seller. Or even the guy who cleans my mother’s house in New Delhi.
For all them and more, the phone was more than just a device with which to place a call. It’s an instant office, a receptionist who’ll take messages, an inbox where orders can be placed, the equivalent of an email address or website, and most important, for all micro entreprenuers, a means for new clients to reach them.
Not just in India or China; this phenomena of the handphone – freed from the shackles of state sponsored infrastructure required for landlines in the majority of these developing nations – has demonstrated its effect in improving the micro economy and providing opportunities for the entreprenuerially minded in hitherto backward regions around the world.
Larry Keeley taught us about post industrial platforms, philosophies such as self expression, political freedom, enlightenment and mastery – he said that these were the foundations on which successful businesses of the future would be built. I see them all, in one form or the another, in the simple concept of one very small, but very powerful device.