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Why mobiles attract the common man

May 29, 2007 15:17 IST
For 58-year-old Ram Babu, who runs a small shop dealing with old newspapers and other scrap from residents in Dwarka, a satellite city on the outskirts of the capital, business has witnessed a considerable rise ever since he purchased a cell phone.

Babu, who previously cycled through the by-lanes of this rapidly developing suburb, frequently entering into arguments with security guards of the numerous housing societies there, life is a lot more comfortable now.

Now, he takes calls on his cell phone sitting comfortable in his tiny shed that has newspapers stacked in neat rows.

"I am happy because earlier I used to cover only five societies, but with the phone I am doing ten societies now. People call me on the phone and I have no problem with the security guards as they are instructed to let me in, says Babu with a smile.

With prices of handsets dipping and tariffs becoming more affordable, even those in the lower income bracket are buying mobiles. Be it the next door 'chaiwala,' the 'dhobi,' the milkman, the 'sabziwallah' or the canteen boy, all sport the ubiquitous instrument.

Deepak Gupta, who lives in Ber Sarai and is preparing for civil services exams, says, "my sweeper is a busy guy. He works in 10-15 buildings and if you need him, you have to call him on his mobile."

"I save lot of time because of this mobile. Now there is no need to go in every house looking for work. I have circulated my number to every household and they call me in advance, if there is work," says Vinod, a sweeper.

Gurmeet Singh, who operates a shop in the Gaffar Market, says the market is prone to fluctuations and the resale price is much less. "If you want to sell your two-month-old handset, it may fetch you only 30 per cent of the original cost," he says.

"Some people have a tendency to change their mobile to make a fashion statement or if they get bored of it. You can purchase a mobile even if you have Rs 500 in your pocket but if you want some value added features, the price range has no limit," adds Singh.

India is the world's fastest-growing mobile market, adding more than six million new users every month lured by low call rates and the total wireless subscriber base, including GSM, CDMA and WLL (fixed), is 171.20 million now, according to Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) report.

Latest research by global investment bank Macquarie reports mobile penetration in India, which is 14.3 per cent, is set to increase to 36.7 per cent during the next three years.

Also the tariff war between the different cellphone subscribers in the market has made owning a phone number much easier. 

Recently Airtel and Reliance Infocomm announced reduction in the call rates and it resulted in the heavy sale of mobile handsets, says Johny, who sells mobiles at his shop in a South Delhi locality of Jangpura.

For those like Umesh, who works in the canteen of a private firm and earns somewhere around Rs 2,500 a month, this is good news. He says he bought a mobile phone five years ago for Rs 3,200 and has not changed the handset till now.

"Earlier I used to call my folks in Giridh, Jarkhand once weekly because it was a pricey affair. But now I talk to my family almost twice daily," he says.

Sunil, a vegetable vendor, says, "I have purchased a second hand mobile from the Grey market in Karol Bagh for Rs 800 because I can't afford a new one. My mobile has lifetime validity. Now I take delivery orders on my mobile and it made my life a bit easy."

When mobile phone services were introduced in India in 1994, only the very rich could afford the handsets along with the service. But soon competition intensified in the telecommunications sector, private businesses challenged the government-owned telecommunications companes, and prices fell.

Bahadur Thapa, who stands guard at an apartment says he purchased a phone following his wife's advice. "She works as a maid and it is easy for me to keep in touch with her as she goes to eight houses in a day" he says

To tap the entry-level market, mobile manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola, Samsung are tying up with service providers like Tata, Airtel, Hutch, Spice among others.

HS Bhatia, Business Group Head, Mobile Communications, LG, says that his company is looking forward to attract entry level mobile users by launching cheap handsets with more features.

"We are launching colour handsets for just Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500 with FM radio. Our main focus is on the value added services i.e, more memory space, mega pixel camera etc."

We are aggressive in our pricing and we will soon be launching our FM phone with one of India's largest GSM operators at about Rs 1700 and follow it up with the cheapest mobile phone in the market, says Avijit Dutt, Haier Mobile.

Lloyd Mathias, director, marketing, Motorola South West Asia Mobile Devices, says  "Our handsets have created a distinct identity for themselves giving a distinctive style statement for our consumers. We are committed to the Indian consumers and have introduced an array of products at every price point to the suit the needs of today's discerning Indian consumer," he adds.

Anurag Sharma
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