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Friday, August 27, 2010

the latest Electronic Gadget and Indian response (Blackberry addict !!)

Dear (s)

The new Secretariat of Chennai is quite a landmark on the Mount road (renamed Anna Salai long back) – the arterial road in Chennai. This is nothing about the landmark or the former CM – but something prompted by what Shekhar Kapur, the film director wrote in his blog about this fruit of the Rosaceae family. An edible fruit…… !!!

Somewhat opposite to the Secretariat is a tiny street called Ritchie street, which in 1970s had not more than five shops. The bustling business was in the next street known as Narasingapuram where films were distributed. 100s of films still remain on rolls, undistributed is grapevine. Buried alongwith could be hopes of hundreds who would have ventured from their villages dreaming of fame in world through tinseldom. Soap bubbles for many – sure way to growth for some – Dream Industry (kanavuth thozhirchalai) as my favourite Sujata wrote.

The modern world is about exploring new opportunities in making life easier. Technology has brought in more and more innovations – some bringing comfort and many changing the way of life. Slowly electronic gadgets have emerged as best friends of human beings. When we grew up telephones were luxury – only rich boasted of them. Offices had – but usage was limited – not many personal calls would be made – of course little or no privacy at all. The no. was fixed to a place and hence not individualistic. Life went on - how many of us could profess that they could live a week (or a day) without a cell phone ? How many friend / relative’s address or telephone no. do you remember now ? The no. of phone is house now a days is more than the no. of persons at home including children. Besides there are no. of hand held devices and other electronic gadgets – just recount how many remote controllers you have at home ? - for television (s), air conditioners, cooking equipment, digital audio players, mp3 players, music systems, ……. At big malls, people crowd shops selling electronic gadgets. Gizmos and gadgets ranging from lightweight mp3 players and mobile phone to the extravagant camcorders and portable DVD players, have become part of everyday life. With small passage of time, they tend to become lighter, have more capacity and fall in price constantly also.

Gone are the days of bulky computing machine and the big unwieldy floppy which will not fit in any pocket - now there is ultra small USB drive – the smallest one with thickness of less than 4 mm but having 8GB memory. There portable storage devices which can hold multiple times the info. Once big servers contained. Once upon a time, the whole World depended on ‘letters’ sent by post – the mushroomed couriers did only increase the correspondence by letters. Then came e mail revolutionizing the communication – faster, bulkier and more to people instantaneously at a time. 

The only disadvantage was connectivity – the computer and internet through dial up connections.   Now many own a Blackberry (also a fruit as described at the start) – one need not fetch new e mails. They would just show up. The messages are delivered real time and one can surf web anywhere any time staying connected, and can get entertained during meetings with a nice game also. Some have got addicted to it and surrendered to it.Once you are surrounded by the e gadgets, suddenly you are bound to find things malfunctioning – it can be simple to more complex – depending upon your need and understanding of the gadget, the originality, the supply chain, the availability of authorized repairer et al. There is no guarantee that the Authorised outlet would fix the bug; the parts may not be available or when available would cost you a fortune – much closer to what you would spend on replacement of the equipment.

This small congested lane located in the heart of Chennai – Ritchie Street is a haven of electronic gadgets – now it is a big market place of close to thousand shops – big and small from a CD in retail for Rs.5 to costlier latest ultra modern electronic equipment introduced a few hours earlier in one part of the world. It is also one of the largest market for computer spares and peripherals. It is indeed to find spirited entrepreneurs smartly selling products, when the same product is available in many other shops in the vicinity. Is it confidence, business sense, judging people or anything else ? Each shop would have their own share in the market and loyal customers besides catering to single time purchasers. Apart from the CD games, songs and cinemas literally strewn on the streets, this is a place housing very good service facilities.

What amazes anybody is the knowledge and skill sets displayed by the small youngsters who would be found in abundance. You take any brand of mobile (bought in any part of the world) the small guy (looking extremely uneducated and raw) would simply know how to open, what facilities it contain, more importantly what gadgets / memory that would support. Apart from Sony for Sony and Motorola for Motorola, he can instantaneously suggest what your phone would support and what could fit your pocket.

The owner of the gadget having bought it in a upstream market during a visit to a foreign country, might struggle to use or open it after reading reams of its manual – this guy who for sure cannot read his own mother tongue would profess expertise in your product though it might not have even found its way into Indian market. Pure logic and common sense at work. Similarly, when your equipment stops functioning and when your authorized repairer quotes the very price of the equipment, there could be simpler solutions from this rustic whom you thought was uncouth but eventually find to be extremely pleasing and enterprising intelligent person.

On platform there were pieces of mangled pieces alongwith CDs that once came with computer magazines. A group of college students (future Engineers in Computer Science) were analyzing them for a pick. The seller another middle aged man in his dhoties, asked them what they were looking for. One of the boys hesitantly spoke of a programme,; pat came the response from the uneducated seller – see that july issue – it had a demo version of the software - when you speak to the older generation, even Professors who taught once in colleges struggle to distinguish between hardware and software and are afraid of using the modern gadgets – then there are guys who perhaps would never have opportunity to hands on in a computer but seemingly knowing what a programme is and what component is what and how it would fit to a gadget !! Strange is the World…….

Regards - Sampathkumar

With this background now read the article of Shekar Kapur titled “A Blackberry addict discovers grassroots enterprise in India” - posted in his blog.

A greater ‘hole in the wall’ you cannot imagine. A small fading sign on the top saying “Cellphoon reapars” barely visible through the street vendors crowding the Juhu Market in Mumbai. On my way to buy a new Blackberry, my innate sense of adventure (foolishness) made me stop my car and investigate. A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet. Grimy and uncleaned.  ‘Can you fix a blackberry ?”
-- ‘ Of course , show me”
# How old are you”
-- ‘Sixteen’
#Bullshit. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T shirt and pyjama’s ! At least if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I have been meaning to do for a year now.
--‘What’s wrong with it ?”
#Well, the roller track ball does not respond. It’s kind of stuck and I cannot operate it”. He grabs it from my hand and looks at it
-- “You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller ball get greasy and dirty, then no working’
#Look who was telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed for 10 days, I leaned out to snatch my useless blackberry back.
-- you come back in one hour and I fix it’
#I am not leaving all my precious data in this unwashed kid’s hands for an hour. No way. who will fix it ?”
-- Big brother’
#‘ How big is ‘big brother?’
-- big …. umm ..thirty’
#Then suddenly big brother walks in. 30 ??? He is no more than 19.
‘What problem ?’ He says grabbing the phone from my greasy hand into his greasier hand.
#Obviously not trained in etiquette by an upmarket retail store manager.
-- Normal blackberry problem. I replace with original part now. You must wash your hand before you use this’
#What is this about me washing my hands suddenly ?? 19 year old big brother rummages through a dubious drawer full of junk and fishes out a spare roller ball packed in cheap cellophane wrapper.
Original part ? I doubt it.
#But by now I am in the lap of the real India and there is no escape as he fishes out a couple of screwdrivers and sets about opening my Blackberry.
#“How long will this take ?”
-- Six minutes ”
#This I have to see. After spending the whole morning trying to find a Blackberry service centre and getting vague answers about sending the phone in for an assessment that might take a week, I settle down next to his grubby cramped work space. At least I am going to be able to watch all my stored data vanish into virtual space. People crowd around to see what’s happening. I am not breathing easy anyway. I tell myself this is an adventure and literally have to stop myself grabbing my precious blackberry back and making a quick escape.
But in exactly six minutes this kid handed my blackberry back. He had changed the part and cleaned and serviced the the whole phone. Taken it apart, and put it together. As I turned the phone on there was a horrific 2 minutes where the phone would not come on. I looked at him with such hostility that he stepped back.
-- you have more than thousand phone numbers ?”
-- backed up ?’
-- Must back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing up’
#‘You tell me that now ?
But then the phone came on and my data was still there. Everyone watching laughed and clapped. This was becoming a show. A six minute show. I asked him how much.
-- 500 rupees’ He ventured uncertainly . People around watched in glee expecting a negotiation.
# Thats $ 10 dollars as against the Rs 30,000 ($ 600) I was a about to spend on a new blackberry or a couple of weeks without my phone. I looked suitably shocked at his ‘high price ‘ but calmly paid him. Much to the disapointment of the expectant crowd.
-- do you have an Iphone ? Even the new ‘4A one ?
# no, why”
-- I break the code for you and load any ‘app’ or film you want. I give you 10 film on your memory stick on this one, and change every week for small fee’.

I went home having discovered the true entreprenuership that lies at what we call the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Some may call it piracy, which of course it is, but what can you say about a two uneducated and untrained brothers aged 10 and 19 that set up a ‘hole in the wall’ shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the world can throw at them.

I smiled at the future of our country. If only we could learn to harness this potential. ‘Please wash your hands before use’ were his last words to me. Now I am feeling seriously unclean.


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