Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back from the Village

I got back early this morning from Bhoke, a small village in southern Maharashtra. It was a fantastic trip!

With Mangesh's help, I interviewed rickshaw drivers, shopkeepers, fishermen, and farmers about their use of mobile phones.

These fishermen talked about how if one boat caught a lot of fish, they would call their friends to come to the spot.

The number written on the wall of this shop is for a rickshaw driver. Drivers interviewed estimated that about 70% of other drivers now have mobile phones. They give their numbers to everyone, so now they can get pick-up requests. This increased income by about 1/3 according to one rickshaw driver.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Diwali!
I went to Mangesh's house in Khar-Danda last night for Diwali. We lit some fireworks and ate lots of sweets from his neighbors, all of whom had different powdered decorations on their doorstep.

But the best part is that we decided to go to Mangesh's village in Maharashtra today! I can't wait to go.

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Piggyback or Leapfrog?

Here are two seeming contrary views on Technology Development in India. The Economist says that India should be faster to copy western technologies, while Thomas Friedman says that imitating the west would be a disaster. What do you think?

"India Dreams of Leapfrogging to the Front of the Technological Pack. But There is Nothing Wrong with Piggybacking on Foreign Inventions, Says Simon Cox in The Economist this Week"
Business Wire India
"So what should India do? It should leapfrog us, not copy us. Just as India went from no phones to 250 million cellphones — skipping costly land lines and ending up with, in many ways, a better and cheaper phone system than we have — it should try the same with mass transit."
Thomas Friedman of the New York Times
see also E2K article by Thomas Friedman

:::D E P R E S S I N G - N E W S:::

"India has just 2.3 million broadband subscribers. That translates into a 0.2% broadband penetration... If that sounds damning, there’s more. India stands right at the bottom on a list [ranking] 34 countries in terms of the number of broadband subscribers... This, despite all the noise around telecom and IT growth in India. "
Economic Times,
LinkOct 31, 2007
2.3 million connections means that Broadband Internet is as common in India as Cretinism (Severe Iodine Deficiency), the most common form of preventable mental retardation (use iodized salt, people).

However, perhaps even more depressing, did you know that last quarter, Internet connections in India actually fell, from 9.27 to 9.22 million. Has the Internet market already peaked? What is going on? Any NRI thoughts on this?

Wrapping up: Indian 'Broadband' is defined as anything greater than >256kbps. But even for "broadband" users, the typical speeds are far below this--due to overcapacity and dishonest broadband companies. That's why my "2mbps" connection is downloading at 161kbps.

And finally, to top it off, I can't access my mobile network, as Vodafone's GPRS has been offline for the past 2 days. oh, oh, I'm feeling faint!

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Video Gaming: Pali Hill, Dharavi, and Beyond

I've recently seen two interesting types of video game establishments in Bombay, India: a miniature classic arcade in Dharavi, and a Playstation room at Pali Hill.

In the Dharavi Labor Camp, a small (5'x6') room holds two arcade consoles. Games were ~2 rupees (5 cents). This price point seemed to attract young kids. They were playing some street-fighter type game.

Then you have a Playstation Shop near Pali Hill. Pali Hill is one of the wealthiest parts of Bombay, and since there is a 35% tax on imported 'luxury' electronics, Playstations are rare even among the rich. In this picture we see a slightly older, substantially more affluent demographic playing Fifa (sorry for the terrible picture--I'll go back and reshoot, promise). Nevertheless, I wouldn't call this fancy.

Many are looking at India's ~$45 million online gaming video game market as a major opportunity. China's online video game market shot from ~$50 million to nearly $1 billion in 6 years, due to a rapid increase in the popularity of online games.

India's game market, however, is unlikely to see such growth, as the internet infrastructure necessary for this market to blossom is absent. Nevertheless, two major online gaming sites in India, and, are advertising heavily to promote their India-centric online gaming sites (go to Zapak to play "Meter-Down", the truly fun 3-d rickshaw racing game).

Blogging is just like Bombay

You know how sometimes you have so much to say that you can't say anything in particular? It isn't silence in your head-- it's a blanketing noise, a cacophony that can't be resolved without filtering out almost everything. If you could be transported to Bombay from San Diego you'd know just what I mean. There is so much to see on every street that by the end of a single block you'd be speechless from the overabundance of things to say.

The above statement is my excuse for not blogging for the past month. :) Let the updates begin!