Thursday, November 10, 2005

Creating India 2.0 (and “faffing” about it)

This is’s vision statement. They aspire to redefine digital life and culture in India in the coming years. India 2.0. I spent yesterday at Indiatimes’ swank office in Gurgaon, mostly hanging out with folks who work in the Corporate Group (a team of people who are responsible for “strategy”). Indiatimes is a portal, but a glance at the left sidebar of the homepage indicates otherwise. A portal is quite the understatement – these guys have a finger in pretty much anything cyber-India related. And as several people in the office said, no one quite knows how the elephant manages to move, but it does. And successfully at that.

Where my interests were concerned, it became clear that the entertainment-related action was all based in Mumbai. There are a few key people based in Delhi, however, and I plan to meet them sometime this week. I am particularly looking forward to meeting with a couple of dudes who work on mobile gaming. In terms of Bollywood’s intersections with new media, there is no way I can ignore the centrality of cell phones. While ringtones and wallpapers continue to generate much revenue, much energy is being expended on developing cooler games. The
Mangal Pandey game, for instance, was quite a hit.

An interesting piece of info: the urban youth segment is not the biggest downloader of ringtones and wallpapers. It is the auto driver segment. Given that the cell phone is by far the coolest gadget this class strata owns, it appears that an auto driver is more likely to “extend his experience” of the cell phone than a 20-something urban middle/upper middle class guy. The youth segment is bored and wants better games.

And “faffing”? The art of talking about new concepts/product innovations in very impressive fashion and then doing nothing about it. Faffing. When Shashank (my insider friend at Indiatimes) explained this, I wasted no time in informing him that PhD students are naturals at faffing. In seminars, at conferences, during one-on-one meetings with our advisors, over booze with fellow faffers, when we teach hapless undergrads who have no clue they’re being faffed at (esp when we’ve spent 10 minutes preparing for the day’s lecture) and so on. This is not to say that I didn’t learn anything yesterday! But more on that once I’ve done a few more interviews.

The one other thing I have to mention: the monstrous mile of malls in Gurgaon! It is quite a sight – vast stretches of undeveloped land pockmarked by high-rise apartments and malls. What are the apartments called? Beverley Hills, Belvidere, Princeton – folks who can afford to buy a 1 crore apt like the angrezi names (and clearly like living right next to a mall). As for the malls, they don’t compare in size to amriki ones – at the end of the day, a single Sears store is larger than 2 or 3 desi malls put together. I didn’t have time to shop or anything, but did get to eat a McAloo Tikki for lunch!

While there is much to be said about how malls are gradually redefining the idea of the bazaar in urban India, there is one quick observation I want to make. The mall is the only place I’ve seen where handicapped people are at ease. Needless to say, there is much more that these malls can do in terms of handicapped access. But when one considers the fact that policy – at whatever level – doesn’t take into consideration handicap access at all, this seems one small step. I’ll google this, talk to some people, and come back with some more information over the next few days. But if you’ve come across any
writing on this, pl pass it along.


  • for fussy fellow faffer-thats where my alliterative genius-ness runs out-how goes it? this post reminded me of ex-boss, faymbous film faffer/director mani saar. he always affectionately referred to me as "faffer." many tanks.-swati

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