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The lady who made the 'beggar' video that impressed Modi

Last updated on: December 05, 2016 21:20 IST

‘I shot the video in January 2014 and I had no idea then that demonetisation will happen.’

‘Narendra Modi mentioning my video is the ultimate (high).’

‘Even beggars can go tech savvy. I believe technology can be a great leveller.’

Kulpreet Kaur, co-founder of SmartTek which offers digital solutions, found her phone ringing non-stop on Saturday.

In his speech at Moradabad, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he saw a video on Whatsapp of a beggar accepting plastic money.

Watch video (external link)

Kaur, who had shot the video in January 2014, was pleased that the prime minister spoke about it.

“I am getting many phone calls and people are congratulating me,” says Kaur. “Though I must say I have not become a celebrity yet but yes, people have recognised my effort and it feels good.”

Kaur, below, left, spoke to Rediff.com’s Syed Firdaus Ashraf about the video which the whole country is talking about.

How did you feel when the prime minister spoke about your video?

Obviously it was a proud moment. Two years ago Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared the video on his Facebook page and it was a proud moment but Narendra Modi mentioning my video is the ultimate (high). I never thought this would happen. It was small effort from our side on the digital economy. We did the video in half a day.

How did the idea come to you?

I along with a friend wrote the story and directed it. (Kaur is the only actress to be seen in this 1.44 minute video). The idea came when I saw people struggling at traffic signals trying to give change for beggars. Many times I saw people leave without giving the beggars anything because the signal turned green.

I wanted to solve this problem and therefore I felt it is a good idea to do a video showing payment by cards to beggars. Personally, I use cards for payments most of the time and therefore I thought of showing this short video on how you can you go hi-tech to pay money to beggars.  

Kulpreet kaurWhen did you shoot this video?

It was in January 2014 and I had no idea then that demonetisation will happen.

Was it a spoof or did you want to send a message about a ‘cashless’ society?

I never thought about that. I never thought that society will move so fast to Paytm or Mobikwik but surprisingly these things are happening. My video was not a spoof but more of an issue which I wanted to address. I always felt sad for beggars when they did to not get change and a donor drives away due to the signal changing.

Who else worked with you on the video?

There was a colleague of mine who shot the video on a mobile phone and there was a real beggar whose name I don’t know. He used to sit at a temple near my office. One fine day when we got this idea we went to him and told him that he will have to act.

We trained him and told him how to act and after two three takes the video came out very well. I still meet that beggar who sits at a temple at Road No 12 at Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. He usually sits there on Thursday and I picked him randomly. I also borrowed that POS (point of sale) machine from a friend of mine for a few hours.  

What was your target audience?

I am a start-up entrepreneur. I was working with my company which works on digital solutions. We were working on projects like traffic management and street vendors. We were looking for tech solutions including for beggars. It was like a message that even beggars can go tech savvy. I believe technology can be a great leveller.

In real life do you feel it is possible in future that beggars too will have POS machines and they can go digital?

Why not? With things like Paytm and Mobikwik it is possible. Other day I went to buy flowers at a small shop and they accept Paytm. It was good feeling and made me feel that we (India) are moving forward.

Do you feel that the digital economy is the way forward to tackle black money as Modi says?

Yes. I support Modi’s idea. We are facing little problems now but in three to six months everything will be sorted out.

More than 30 crore people don’t have mobile phones so is a digital economy possible?

If you notice my video there is another guy who is selling cleaning cloth before the beggar arrives on the screen. He is one-armed but he is not a beggar but the guy has a mobile phone. I have seen so many beggars with mobile phones if not smart phones. The costs of mobile phones have come down drastically and therefore everybody has got one.

Do you think in future beggars will accept money via Paytm?

Why not? It is possible. We should do that. When we have vegetable sellers with Paytm, why not beggars? It is just that we need to have little awareness at the ground level. We never thought earlier that petrol pumps will take Paytm but now they do.

Do you know that Paytm had to withdraw its advertisement where a maid tells her house owner that she will accept payment by Paytm? Many felt that it was an insult to the maid and the advertisement was an elitist idea. Do you believe so?

I don’t know about that. But today I feel the best way to pay her salary is by Paytm or to get her a bank account. You can open a bank account within minutes. People who are uneducated need our help and it is our responsibility to make them aware. It is not Prime Minister Modi’s job alone.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com