In April 2007 I had written a story titled "The 3G Economy". 3G was far from the spectrum, literally, at that time and we were hoping it would be a reality some day. Its 2010 now and it's a reality at last. 3G can do wonders, empower you and create work opportunities that didn't exist earlier. The person featured in the story below is fictitious but the story is very real for so many people who come to metros in search for job opportunities and end up taking jobs far below their potential monetarily and intellectually. The technology is real, the revenue model is real, and for many people this story could be a life turning moment. I have rewritten portions of this story with additions relevant to the 3G scenario in 2010 now that's it's finally a reality. Remember 3G empowers you to the extent that your nonexistent village or town is now as close to New York as New Delhi is to New York. I hope this story inspires many of you.
An enterprising Indian - Sarita Pandey
Sarita Pandey is an enterprising young girl. She is all of 24 now just back after working for a year in Delhi. Sarita did her graduation from Delhi University, which she thought was a waste of time so alongwith college she decided to work part time as a researcher and invested the money she earned in a web designing school. She then worked for a year at a design company and picked up practical skills about understanding client needs and more.
Sarita Pandey doesn't have any academic record to boost of. She studied in the local village school, a school without any classrooms. In class eight her headmaster father decided to send her to Blue Roses Public School in Haldwani, a small town in the foothills of Himalayas. She secured 70 per cent in her board examination that secured her admission in an insignificant college in Delhi University in a course that perhaps is not worth mentioning.
A tiny village of India - Kukuchina
Now about Kukuchina. Kukuchina is a beautiful small village with 30 houses north of Himalayas. You can see the entire Himalayan range from here. It's the last town on the motorable road 30 kms from Dunagiri. If you could fly you will probably reach China in perhaps an hour from there. The town didn't have electricity till a few years ago. Infrastructure is as bad or good (depending on how optimistic or pessimistic you are) as any other village in India. Telephones don't exist. Cell phones work fantastically thanks to BSNL connectivity.
The village bond
Sarita and her father are the only two members in her family. Her father's eyesight has almost gone. For years he labored at the village school teaching little kids lessons in values, in education and more. He went beyond his means fending for Sarita. Even sending her to a public school in Haldwani where the fee was a full Rs 750 per month (almost 25 per cent of his salary) wasn't an easy task for him. For Sarita's graduation in an insignificant college in DU he had to forgo his provident fund.
Back to roots
Sarita felt a sense of obligation towards her father. Even otherwise the Delhi life was driving her crazy. Kukuchina was a thousand times better place than Delhi, Sarita felt. The mountain breeze, the village bonds, a sense of responsibility was all calling her back to her village.
Added to all this was the launch of 3G services in India which meant her village now had wireless broadband connectivity. So even if Sarita was sitting on a mountain top she was connected to the world, she could communicate, conference, tweet, Skype, get paid through Paypal and so much more.
In Jan 2010 she decided to take a plunge.
Long live Sarita the entrepreneur
Kukuchina, the village, didn't have any infrastructure to boost of as I mentioned earlier. Not even telephones. But Kukuchina has really good cellular phone connectivity thanks to BSNL. In January 2010 BSNL launched its 3G services delivering around 512 kbps wirelessly. Kukuchina like 1000's of other villages of India now had an invisible super expressway in its air that connected this unknown place of India to anywhere in the world. Now Kukuchina was as close to New York as New Delhi is to New York.
Sarita after her graduation had worked for Pixel Dot Design company in Delhi. Web designing she had already learnt from the design school. But here she picked up some invaluable skills. Pixel Dot Design company had an entirely overseas clientele. 90 per cent business of Pixel Dot Design was procured from freelance sites like Elance, Freelancer and Rentacoder. Sarita besides web designing was also in charge of handling her customers. She learnt invaluable skills here. Sarita Pandey had an idea.
In Jan 2010 she decided to move back to Kukuchina. Her sole noteworthy possessions were her savings of Rs 15,000 and a laptop she had bought for Rs 27,000.
In Jan 2010 Kukuchina still didn't have telephone connections. Electricity supply was erratic. But the village air did have access to a 512 kpbs connection and that was all Sarita needed.
A Global Services Inc
She set up a little sole proprietorship firm called India Designs Inc. Her costs were far less than any of her freelance counter parts in the cities. She now bid for design orders online on sites like Elance, Rentacoder and many others. Keeping her bid far lower than others, small city cost advantage. By the end of Feb 2010 (less than 1 month) she had made $980 ie almost Rs 43,000 (more than twice her salary). Sarita had perhaps the most beautiful office in the world. With the sky above and the snow capped mountains in front of her. By the first quarter Sarita had a turnover of $6000 ie more than Rs 2,50,000, the money she received via the wire transfer and Paypal routed via the local Post Office. Besides Sarita also has an "international account" in Paypal through which she buys products and tools she needs by paying a $ equivalent.
Currently Sarita is planning to diversify her business by hiring as apprentices her bum chum buddies Payal and Koyal who live in other villages. They will connect through a Virtual Shared Network to have meetings for free. Her business philosophy is simple, procure more, deliver more, profit more. The information superhighway in the village air now. All she had to do was make her product available on it.
The last word
Sarita maybe fictional but enterprise in India isn't. Innovation and enterprise have been the wheels on which our village economy has moved so far. It isn't just about design. IT COULD BE ANY WORK WHERE THE DELIVERY IS DIGITAL. Multiply the Sarita effect by a million X and see the impact on the Indian economy. Small villages could become global centers of innovation and enterprise. It took just 2-3 years and an IT boom to bust the image of Indians as a nation of snake charmers. Empower the villages with connectivity and see the magical transformation of a super power called India which lives in its villages. It is beyond imagination what a "Sarita x Million X" effect could do to the GDP of our country. Call it a 3G economy, that's where the future is. 3G gives you a choice for work opportunities, right where you are and it's absolutely real.
Puneet Mehrotra writes on technology