Mobile phones: A post industrial platform

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.

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9 Responses to Mobile phones: A post industrial platform

  1. neelakantan says:

    The mobile phone is not just a communication device. It is a status symbol – a way of telling customers – look I can be reached anytime, I have invested in a phone. It is an advertisement when I store a number, it is a way of building recall and getting repeat customers. When I pass it on, its word of mouth publicity, free of cost. My mother was telling me just the other day that the fruit seller in the train has a phone. It is everywhere. Cooks have phones that enable them to communicate in case they are late. Today in India, anytime you ask how do I reach you- the person opposite you flashes his phone and says – contact me here.
    I may be exaggerating, but perhaps after literacy and the pen, the phone (and micro schemes) may just be the greatest enabler ever for entrepreneurship.

  2. neelakantan says:

    Indeed, Tata Indicoms ad,
    has a tagline, Insaan phone leta hain tarakki karne ke liye – literally, People buy a phone to progress in life. That is the whole platform of aspiration.

  3. niti bhan says:

    Neelakantan, I don’t think you’re exaggerating, not for those at the bottom of the so called pyramid, not for developing nations – you and I both know that ten years was the average waiting time to get a phone line in India, before the advent of cellphones. If the PCO/STD/ISD boxes hadn’t been set up, would any of us have been able to make a phone call?
    (note: the link works now, it had an extra bracket I’ve edited)
    Your adlink was a little outdated, or I may had trouble getting through to it, so here’s the story of the campaign you mention – Excellent concept btw, and they’ve mentioned that their target audience is vegetable vendors etc,
    “The idea behind the first Kajol-Ajay Devgan campaign was to reach out to the low-end consumer, be it a painter, a vegetable vendor or a plumber. And for this segment of consumers, the basic use of a mobile phone is just talking. All other value-added features are pointless for them.”

  4. says:

    Technology Has Changed the World

    Yes, I realize the title is obvious.nbsp; But as I buzz along in my life I forget it sometimes.nbsp; I forget that I have a nicenbsp; house.nbsp; In an amazing city.nbsp; With a great family. Etc. Etc.nbsp; I watch my two …

  5. Ashish Banerjee says:

    The greatest impact of mobile telephony to human lives at the BoP is in Africa.
    Check out
    Brand strategy: yours truly; Creative: Linnette Kessler; Identity: FutureBrand London.
    Relaunched in Jan 2003, now thriving in over a dozen countries across Africa.
    Last year we did some consumer contact sessions in several of their markets, to gauge the extent to which consumers imputed meaning to the brand and its role in their lives.
    The responses we heard — consistently across markets — moved and humbled us.
    Someday we might write an article or a book with the CMO.

  6. niti bhan says:

    Yep! The “demonstrated it’s effect” link is about Celtel only 🙂 Gotcha!

  7. niti bhan says:

    But until you write the book, won’t you share some of those moving stories with us? Either as a comment or if you send me an email, I’ll post it up?

  8. Ashish Banerjee says:

    Can’t yet… NDAs, etc.!

  9. Razib Ahmed says:

    In many third world countries, getting a mobile phone is much easier than a landphone connection. That is perhaps why taht the number of mobile phones is increasing so much. 5.14 Million new Mobile Phone Customers in March 2006 in India ( and China is growing too.

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