Life has changed a lot in India in the past decade. Perhaps the biggest changes have been due to the compression of time and space – “the death of distance”. The speed of communications, the velocity of life, the frequency of interactions – all have gone up. At the heart of this has been the increasing penetration of technology and the opening up of the Indian economy. This week’s columns considers these changes, their impact going ahead and the opportunities. First, a look at the changes.
It is hard to imagine that a decade ago India had barely a handful of channels. Today, the real-time menu brings to us cricket matches played anywhere in the world, international stock market ups and downs, and even summits. Debates are played out by politicians in drawing rooms, financial results are announced first on TV, and Presidents have journalists for breakfast (while being watched by millions). 24-hour television has arrived in India.
What was a tool mainly for businesses is now finding its place in Indian homes. Spurred by reducing costs (down to about Rs 30,000), the computer is becoming a key purchase as parents invest in their children, and companies realise they cannot stay without it. The computer now becomes the gateway to a new world of knowledge and discovery.
Email is rapidly becoming the primary business communications method. It is faster and cheaper than everything else.
The result is a shortening of the time between interactions leading to a faster exchange of messages.
It is also possible to send messages to many more people simultaneously. Thus, the number of messages each one receives is increasing. Email also allows for many more conversations to be ongoing at the same time with people all over the world.
This August will see the completion of six years of commercial Internet access in India. Even though the number of users may still only be in the region of 5-6 million, the sprouting cybercafes and Internet community centers across India have made access in the reach of many more millions. The Web has also put information access in the hands of anyone with an Internet connection: be it the latest research in scientific journals or live cricket scores.
Four million users and counting. WLL, GSM or whatever – the wireless revolution in India is finally starting to happen, and is not just limited to urban India. The shrill ring of the cellphone is now escapable – be it in trains, movie theatres or meetings. SMS is only now starting to pick up in India. Roaming ensures reachability nearly everywhere. For the caller, time zones matter little. Think back to a decade ago when one had to wait months to get a phone connection: today, not only will the local phone companies give a wireline in hours if not days, one can even pick up a pre-paid cellphone in minutes.