The 30:70 barrier for technology in India
Indian villages across the length and breadth of the country are like intimate poetry; a subject of fascination, nostalgia and a reflection of one’s interpretation of their world. Some might recollect the smell of freshly toiled land, rain, the local delicacies only our grannies and the likes could make, or the thatched roofs and mushy (open to interpretation) roads. No matter what one’s imagery of a village is, it is where about 70 percent of the Indian population call their home and the other 30 percent is its diaspora.
With our ever growing cities and fast developing towns standing as a testimony to the migratory nature of humans, fulfilling our basic necessities and a hope for a better future might be the reason for it. Coming to think of it, I am amused by the way, technology has been an enabler of this desire for higher quality and ease of life. Few men’s contribution to innovation through technology has fueled the desire of millions of common men to live a better life than their peers in villages.
While good technology is almost never bound by geographical boundaries but Intellectual Property rights, I fail to understand why it has not penetrated to the villages of India. I am sure my statement has opened up a Pandora’s Box here, and every reader might have a very analytical reasoning behind why villages lack technology penetration while the cities have an abundance of it. I am sure most of this reasoning ranging from infrastructure to mindsets; plateaus to plains is a valid hindrance to make our friends in villages more tech savvy. But for a duration of time taken to read through this sentence, can we all play the devil’s advocate, and try to reason the ante to your deep-rooted analytical reasoning? Please try, it might turn out to be a revelation to many, and a source of new business ideas for some. We have all heard of the glass half full and half empty right? The way I see it, the glass is only about 30 percent full.
Let us note the famous quote; necessity is the mother of invention. I’d like to express my evidential interpretation of this quote and build context to my observations
We migrate from different places and settle in cities, hence ways and means of communication was a necessity. We all now know how many enterprises and innovators have over-subscribed to this need, leading to a paradox of choice in choosing the right tool to communicate.
As more and more people flocked to the cities, real estate boomed, prices rose, demand for houses increased, and as a result, the concept of apartments paved its way. Some of you might have heard of ghost towns of China. We have our own parches of ghost towns in our Indian cities.
Faster and comfortable commute was enabled when bullocks turned to engines, cycles turned to bikes, and so on. Today we have automotive sports, I am personally a great fan of.
The list of evolution might go on and on, but here is what I am trying to say; a need was identified and then, thinkers and doers put on their thinking caps and introduced path breaking innovations that we all continue to enjoy. None of it would have been possible if those who did not feel the need to create a solution hadn’t experienced the problem themselves in the first place. Sitting in cities today, we can try to find solutions for ourselves. Look at the rise in the number of mobile apps we have in the market; thanks to technology, anyone who identifies a need, is creating solutions with technology because we might have needed it. Now let me state my observations on villages
A typical village has about 200-500 families and a radius of 2 kilometers covers the entire village.
Amongst these families are mostly agriculturists, some dairy farmers/fishermen, few local traders, teachers, government officials and local vendors.
Migration to villages might be a challenge to many of them due to possibly the below reasons
People have lands they cannot abandon, cattle that cannot be left unattended (most of the people are emotionally connected to their pets and cattle)
Fear of uncertainty, higher cost of living in cities, smaller spaces to live, phobia of too many options(this is a consideration for many, and I don’t completely disagree)
Culture shock, issues of communication, lack of required education to lead a comfortable life in cities.
A happy and comfortable life in their existing, known environments. It is hard not to know each other with such fewer families co existing together.
Most of those modern innovations/technologies might not be relevant to village communities as these were improvements developed for city-zens. We must enable technology to address the specific needs of the significant other population of our country. This may not need reinventing the wheel, but customization is the key. Technology needs to be more people friendly, easy to use and adapt. Some companies like ITC and HUL, startups like cropin, agrostar, sharechat seem to have sensed an opportunity and are enabling this transition. In the long run, enterprises increase their customer share, villages are more connected and digitally enabled, people will get similar services in cities and villages and the Happiness index/doing business/economy of this nation might take a pole jump. Remember, 1.2 billion and counting is a very huge potential customer base. For companies that aspires its name to become a noun/verb like google and maggi, you better not miss out this opportunity. They might not have yet been introduced to these nouns and verbs.