India at Davos: Advertising the unavailable

They advertised India’s $35 dollar computer in Davos during the World Economic Forum 2012. The photo on The HIndu op-ed page came as an  ‘eye-opener’ for me, in the sense that I didn’t realise our India-brand building specialists were capable of advertising abroad something that is not available off the shelf in India.  Anyway,  I don’t suppose anyone in Davos took up the computer maker on their  bargain offer (of $35) .

The advertising agency involved in the  ‘India Ingenious’  campaign may well be  justified if they say  they are in the business of marketing,  not a product, but  a perception.  The product in reference – Aakash tablet computer –  going by its  status reports,  is still  very much a work in progress.

The photo credit: Ravinder Kaur,  associate professor,  Modern South Asian Studies,  Copenhagen University,  who took the photo to go with her article : Dazzling images do not a shining nation make.  Notable among the points made  by the author  is that India,  in mounting the  image campaign through billboards,  and promos .  on city  buses,  cafes,  streets and, even half-empty parking lots,  of  Davos,  has  had to compete  with players such as  Mexico,  Thailand and  Azerbaijan,  for attracting foreign investment.  China, they say,  was conspicuous through its visual absence.

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Nandan Nilekani ‘on the bench’

Infosys guy Nandan Nilekani found himself  put ‘on the bench’ right on his first day in Parliament. It was his fault, in a way – Nilekani’s.  He came to the House with a laptop without any reserve power.  Besides a power socket he needed a screen and projector to make a presentation on his national plan to give every Indian a degital identity.

What folllowed is best described in Nilekani’s own words: “The next couple of minutes were a complete jolt for me. I was completely in a tizzy… A Joint Cabinet Secretary Committee was set up to judge the feasibility of my request.  The Under Secretaries for the Ministries of Power, IT and Broadcasting will prepare a Viability Report after scrutinizing National Security threats to my request.  This was because the power socket comes under Power, laptop comes under IT and projector comes under Broadcasting”.

I had this account on Nilekani’s ministerial avatar forwarded by a  blogger friend.  The honourable minister for our digital identity has been given a presentation slot three months from now. Which,  presumably,  should also give him time enough to acquire a wardrobe with kurtha  by an Itallian designer. The Milan-based kurtha designer has been recommended to Mr Nilekani by fellow MP Mohd. Azharuddin.  The new minister in the Manmohan cabinet was reminded, by a fellow minister rising on a point of order, that Mr Nilekani was not at Infosys and the corporate dress code he had followed there, flashy dark suit,’ did not go well with the image of a minister who should live to serve the common man and should be less ostentatious in his habits’.

The next time he shows up at Lok Sabha, Mr Nilekani  better be in kutha.  About his Day One in the House Nandanji reportedly text-messaged Murthy, “You won’t believe it but these guys work just like us. I am on a National Bench for the next three months!’

I use a mini laptop

scan0004 Mini laptop or the Netbook,  as they call it, is light and handy, energy-efficient and cheaper than a standard laptop.  But would it really popularise computer usage,  the way cell phone did our telecom network?  There aren’t very many households in India that don’t use cell phone. 

Considering the value for money,  the market expects Netbooks to grow, not only in metros but also in Tier-II and III cities.  The targeted customers  for Netbooks will be students,  says L. Ramprasad,  vice-president, Transactional Consumer Sales, Lenovo India.  The mini,  they say,  would be available for Rs.23,000 to Rs.25,000.

The price may not be much for a computer;   but it’s still much, period. The price needs to be lower,  for   average urban households to get interested enough to  go in for the gadget.  Most Internet users rely on their office system or go to the neighbourhood Internet kiosk to check mail. Unlike the cell-phone , the Netbook is unlikely to widen the Internet reach and penetrarion.  The cell-phone caught on,  in slums and swanky suburbs alike, because of pricing plus product positioning.  Price range of cell-phone varies from Rs.3,000 to Rs.30,000.  Our domestic help picked up a used one for Rs.1,000.

 I can’t see her using a computer,  which still remains priced out of much of our population.  Affordablity is an issue even in middle-class households, with competing product priorities and demands on their rupee.  Rs.23,000 is still much for them.  Make it Rs.10, 000,  and you’ve  scope for widening the broadband reach in our country.

100_0795I bought a mini-laptop for $200, Taiwanese ASUS-Eee PC,  in the US,  months before recession set in.  I don’t know how much they sell it for nowadays.  When I went in for the mini-laptop it wasn’t available in stores. Interested customers had to order it online and the laptop was Fedexed to your place from a Target warehouse.  Such elaborate procedure was , presumably,  a promotional drive before they place the product in the market. 

The mini-laptop is okay, and eminently suited for the use of the likes of yours truly. I blog with it,  Google,  send and get e-mail, Skype, transfer photos to computer from a digital camera, and use scanner .  But I can’t  play video-game or burn music CDs ,  which are the features most students look for in a laptop .  Pricing is unlikely to be an issue with students who can’t do without such features.  My only  problem with the mini laptop  is  the screen size.  I got round  it by  connecting my laptop  to  an old desktop screen.