Saturday, 22 September, 2007

In leaps and bounds…

“In India, we’re skipping technologies.”

“Forget everything. Everything’s changed.”

“Traditional advertising is dead.”

“Direct mail never took off and now it’s too late.”

It drones on and on.

Blanket statements with the surety of the sun’s rising in the east.

And what are they backed with? The ‘fact’ that we now have 147 million mobile subscribers in India. (http://www.coai.in/archives_statistics_2007_q3.htm)

This one statistic is supposed to be symbolic of all that is good and great in emerging India.

Frankly, that ‘fact’ is dubious. I bet we neither understand nor report churn correctly. I guess that 147 figure overestimates the subscriber base by at least 1/3.

Even if it was right, and we threw in all the telephones and Internet connections and what have you, you get a tele-density of 10 to 12%.

Big deal.

Actually, big shame.

It’s like celebrating progress in literacy when every second Indian can’t read, or, for that matter, in economic growth, when one out of four lives below the poverty line.

But I digress.

My main point here is the absurdity of taking one statistic, no matter how impressive, as the basis of a universal judgement. One Indian company buys a western one, and India conquers the word. One Rolls Royse sells somewhere in the back of beyond and we’re all maharajas. One NRI author in English wins a prize and we acquire a voice, at last. The literature of our 25 languages doesn’t count. Never did.

You hear this logical pole-vaulting in meeting after meeting. If a Western person is present, the absurdity attains insanity.

Nobody asks, “What are the facts of this case? Can we see them first?”

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