Change has become inevitable in today’s business scenario. The Internet was the new industrial revolution, bringing with it not only technological change but one that was societal and epic in scope. Access to information combined with global supply and demand is reshaping established conventions and destroying old world definitions. Social media has forever changed the way businesses market their products/services, leading to newer ways of engaging customers and thereby increasing brand exposure in unimaginable ways. The social web and mobile technologies have accelerated the rate at which relationships develop, information is shared and influence takes hold. People now use social technology to help shape the world’s events and culture. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement, citizens of all nations are more empowered than ever before. Connected individuals have rallied crowds, created a vast audience and toppled political establishments by communicating their message through social networks.
Now is the time of crowd culture and the new benchmark is how it has influenced the way companies are branded. Crowd culture is defined as diverse, widespread groups of people who join together in support of, or even opposition to, a brand. It is a creation of the digital age that produces digital communities and sub-cultures. Marketers, whether for big or small businesses and even social media, must be proficient in their techniques to grab the attention of these crowds when working at building a following. Branded content has now become an outdated concept. The popular advertisement campaigns like Nike’s “Just Do It” became famous by entertaining the audience. These campaigns also worked because the entertainment media comprised oligopolies, limiting cultural competition. Only a few television networks and movie companies distributed content, so consumer marketing companies could buy their way to success by paying to place their brands in this tightly controlled cultural arena.
Brands also infiltrated culture by sponsoring TV shows and events, attaching themselves to successful content. Since fans had limited access to their favourite entertainers, brands could act as intermediaries. For decades, we were accustomed to fast food chains sponsoring new blockbuster films, luxury autos bringing us golf and tennis competitions and youth brands underwriting bands and festivals. Technology revolutionised the whole concept and allowed people to opt out of ads and for the first time, advertisers had to compete with real entertainment. Companies innovated by creating entertainment content, such as BMW’s short movies for the internet in the hope of gathering a huge audience around their brands. However, branded content could not withstand its latest competition, not from other media houses, but from the crowd itself.
Despite the billions spent on creating content, only three brands are in the YouTube Top 500. McDonald’s has 204,000 YouTube subscribers and PewDiePie has 41 million subscribers. Even Red Bull, considered the biggest branded content success stories with a $2 billion annual branded content budget, only has 4.9 million subscribers, way behind dozens of crowd culture start-ups with production budgets under $100,000. Dude Perfect, started by five Texas university athletes who make videos of trick shots and goofy athletic feats, has eight million subscribers, three million more than Red Bull. It turns out that consumers have little interest in the content that brands churn out. Very few people want it in their feed. In fact, many brands are struggling to unlock the apparent value of social media. A recent analysis conducted by Tania Yuki, founder of social content analytics firm Shareablee, finds that of 65 billion actions prompted by posts made by US brands across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, only seven per cent involved sharing the brand’s content. Douglas Holt, the famous branding expert, suggests that people actually want to follow people, not brands. A look at any social media shows that ranking and brands come a distant second to celebrities: Cristiano Ronaldo, Shakira or Vin Diesel on Facebook, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Barrack Obama on Twitter, or Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian on Instagram.
Holt also draws our attention to a different type of celebrity, focussing on e-sports, names that most of us have only heard casually like PewDiePie, VanossGaming and CaptainSparklez. These gamers and gaming commentators attract millions of followers on YouTube, dwarfing the efforts of major brands and at a fraction of the cost. Brands should take inspiration from digital micro-cultures like e-sports, identifying the ideology that underlies their passion and leveraging it online to sustain their own cultural relevance. So how does social media play a role in the rise of crowd culture? It is all the more path-breaking as it has the ability to bind together geographically isolated communities, in the process greatly increasing the pace and intensity of collaboration and thereby making their cultural influence more direct and substantial. These new crowd cultures come into two types: Subcultures, which incubate new ideologies and practices; and art worlds, which break new ground on entertainment. First, social media has democratised and expanded sub culture. Previously, people had to gather physically with limited ways to communicate on niche topics, maybe magazines or newsletters, or small meetings. Now there are crowd cultures around virtually every topic — ice cream, bacon, poker, tarot reading et al and these groups are worldwide, allowing people to interact and share ideas, products, practices, news and aesthetics, and most importantly bypass the mass-culture gatekeepers. Social media has made cultural innovators and early adopters the same. Second, producing innovative popular entertainment requires a distinctive mode of organisation, that sociologists describe as an art world where artists gather in collaborative competition, and learn from one another by working together and pushing each other.
Given the emergence of crowd culture, marketers can use the concept of “cultural branding” to become successful in social media. The first step is to understand what is currently considered ‘common sense’ and map the cultural orthodoxy. In cultural branding, the brand promotes an innovative ideology that breaks with category conventions. The second step is to locate the cultural opportunity. Over time, cultural orthodoxy begins to lose traction as people understand alternatives. Before social media, the influence of these alternatives would have been marginal, as the mainstream controlled the conversation.
Social media, however, allows the crowd to convert a niche conversation into mainstream beliefs. One example would be travel, where for generations people thought about certain destinations (Florida, London, the Bahamas) as the places to vacation. Then with people sharing pictures and stories of the Maldives, Patagonia, Seychelles, et al, the travel industry changed dramatically. Thus, people were not only open but looking for alternatives to traditional destinations. Third, make an idea meaningful to as many people as possible. A brand idea also needs to have a potential scale. If a brand becomes too associated with a specific sub culture, it can become defined and limited by that association. Take the example of Toyota’s Scion brand in the US. Designed to appeal to a younger, anti-establishment audience, Scion was marketed through tactics like the creation of its own record label, guerrilla marketing and sponsorship, including the infamous Slayer car. The problem was that while Scion may have become well-known within the heavy metal crowd, more mainstream buyers did not know about it at all. Attempts to remedy this came too late. Later, Toyota declared Scion dead.
Fourth, once you understand the cultural opportunity, target the crowd culture. If it is adventure travel, build an offering or a company around it. Fifth, rather than just creating branded content, create entertainment that leverages the identified cultural opportunity. The entertainment does not need to be great, it needs to tap into the vein of the crowd culture. And finally, innovate continually, using cultural flashpoints. A brand can sustain its cultural relevance by playing off particularly intriguing or contentious issues that dominate social media conversations related to an ideology. That’s what Ben & Jerry’s does in championing its sustainable business philosophy. The company uses new product introductions to show its ideology on a range of political issues.
In pursuit of relevance, most brands chase trends. But this is a commodity approach to branding as thousands are doing exactly the same thing with the same generic list of trends. Thus, consumers do not pay attention. By targeting novel ideologies flowing out of crowd cultures, brands can assert a point of view that stands out in the overstuffed media environment. The key is rather than trying to force a story on a captive audience, you need to build a story and product that is consistent with the desires of the social media crowd.
(The writer is Assistant Professor, Amity University)
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer
For once, the launch of DRDO’s imaging satellite didn’t steal the limelight except the drama of a midnight launch at Sriharikota and its military uses. That we are told was to make sure that the satellite traverses the Indian subcontinent when there is maximum sunlight on it and the launch time decides its diurnal rhythms. But along with it, Isro also launched KalamSat, the lightest communication satellite, almost as heavy as a chair at 1.2 kg, developed by students, free. Built at a cost of Rs 12 lakh, the 10-cm cube satellite has a life span of two months and will be the first to use the PSLV rocket’s fourth stage as an orbital platform and conduct experiments. Its utility? This one will study the communication systems of nano satellites, which can be applied in disaster management. While the next lunar mission and preparations for Gaganyaan or the manned mission, intended for 2022, make news, the significance of ISRO’s latest launch lies in the fact that besides cost-effectiveness, it is also looking at developing the scientific temperament among our youth, encouraging education satellites and piloting their trial modules in real time. Soon it will be launching its TV as an interface platform with millennials.
The most noteworthy aspect of the student initiative is that the young scientists came from remote corners of the country. This will further embolden young Indians to commit themselves to the Indian space programme and conduct experiments that may result in breakthrough technological solutions for our lives on earth. The multiple applications of ISRO’s projects already have demonstrable spin-offs. For example, the lithium ion battery for our rockets and spacecraft is finding very good application in electric vehicles. Similarly, now that the Gaganyaan space suits are being developed in a cost-effective manner with fire-resistant chemicals, the fire-retardant technology can be used in hazardous industries to protect workers. ISRO is perhaps these days the best example of the Government’s “Make in India” programme. In fact, the Gaganyaan mission will be a national project in the true sense because it won’t just be confined to ISRO but will include research institutions and private industry.
Space, therefore, is quickly turning into not just our final frontier, but a profitable, multi-dimensional one. ISRO has, in a quick spurt of a decade or so, emerged as one of the key players in the global space market, particularly as a low-cost carrier of surveillance and communication satellites. Ever since we launched 104 satellites in a single rocket (PSLV-C37), 96 of which were from the US, even the big space-probing nations have acknowledged our credibility. The New York Times commended ISRO for the high-risk launch “because the satellites, released in rapid-fire fashion every few seconds from a single rocket as it travelled at 17,000 miles an hour, could collide with one another in space if ejected into the wrong path.”
With many of our landmark missions too now costing much lesser than equivalents in Russia, Europe and the US, India can now proudly proclaim to have shifted the axis of the space race to Asia. And by now partnering with altruistic missions, ISRO has shown that space programmes are not just about extra-terrestrial influence but an Elysium for Earth itself.
Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer
ISRO is using a half-humanoid robot to smoothen out creases for Gaganyaan, our manned mission
So what if we have to wait awhile to send an Indian woman into space, we have a half-humanoid robot in the shape of one doing so. And she will test-pilot drills for our first manned mission as part of the Gaganyaan project. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be sending Vyommitra to mimic humanistic functions in the spacecraft, even converse with intended astronauts and respond to their queries. This preparatory drill is being done to ensure that Indian astronauts can complete their historic manoeuvre without a glitch. India though is not the first nation to send a robot into space to ensure safety of manned flights. NASA had sent Robonaut 2 to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2011 and Japan’s Kirobo had landed there in 2014. Advanced versions are being developed to do a recce for human settlements. Post the failed lunar mission last year, ISRO seems to have learnt its lessons well and is proceeding with extreme caution with AI-aided dry runs.
While the nation would rather not talk about Chandrayaan 2 simply because its rover failed to land on the dark side of the moon, it has had its own success. Forget the lost rover, at the end of the day, it is indigenously developed and manufactured and is testimony to not only R&D and innovation but the ability of home-grown companies to expand capabilities. The Gaganyaan is a logical follow-through of this mission. India has already set a benchmark in PSLV and GSLV launches. It recently launched the high-power communication satellite GSAT-30. This is expected to provide improved coverage and will enable Indian broadcasters to air content in the Middle East, Australia and other parts of Asia, widening the arc of our soft diplomacy. The commercial satellite launch market is estimated to be $30 billion by 2025 and ISRO is certain to be a top player in it. With Vyommitra, ISRO hopes to expand its ability to analyse data and ensure trajectory and payload optimisation for bigger missions. NASA is using AI for its next rover mission to Mars, too. But then a word of caution here. Robots aren’t heroes. As much they promise a new era in space exploration, they must ascend the curve with utmost care.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
Italian small appliances manufacturer, the De’Longhi Group, has announced a strategic partnership with India’s Orient Electric Limited. This is aimed at bringing the premium range of international small appliances to the Indian market.
Orient Electric is a leading home electrical player in the domestic market while having strong presence in 35 countries globally, which made it a suitable partner for this partnership. In the domestic market, the company has a well-organised distribution network, covering over 100,000 retail outlets and a strong service network with a reach in 320 cities.
Commenting on the partnership, the managing director and the CEO of the Orient Electric Limited, Rakesh Khanna, said, “Premiumisation is gathering pace in India. The Indians are travelling abroad, experiencing global food and culture and this being coupled with the rising incomes, is leading to an increased inclination towards an aspirational lifestyle. The partnership with De’Longhi will help us mutually expand our appliances portfolio and tap into the emerging trends in the consumer appliances space in India. Our association will help us offer the internationally acclaimed products to the Indian consumers, which they have been eagerly waiting for.” He further explained that the De’Longhi Group is known for its quality, innovation and design and with the strength of distribution, marketing and service of the Orient Electric, the company is confident that this association will unlock many opportunities for both the companies.
The Middle East, India and Africa vice president commercial and Turkey managing director of the De’Longhi Group, Tunc Gencoglu, added, “We are looking forward to this business partnership as we share similar values and an approach based on consumer-led insights. The appliances market in India is poised for a significant growth. We believe that our brands and the current product selection will cater to a wide spectrum of consumers and create an enjoyable experience. We have a clear strategy to position our three brands—De’Longhi, to deliver the true ‘bean to cup’ coffee experience, the Kenwood brand is positioned at the ‘joy of homemade food’ through its range of kitchen machines, food processors and blenders while the Braun brand will bring in world-class technology and innovation in hand blenders and irons.”
The senior vice president and the business head for appliances division of the Orient Electric, Saurabh Baishakhia, said “Orient Electric always strives to unravel and surface the latent consumer needs and meet them with apt solutions which make life simpler and experiences better. Therefore, it was natural for us to partner with the De’Longhi Group which is known for its, innovatively engineered category-defining differentiated products. We are confident that the partnership will help us capture significant market share in the premium appliances segment in the next few years.”
Orient Electric has already done a soft launch of these products in Delhi and the feedback received from their dealers has been encouraging. Now, the company will launch the same in a phased manner, starting from the Tier-I cities in India. Talking about the marketing strategy of the company, Baishakhi explained that since these appliances are experiential, the company has trained its distribution network across the country to offer a personalised, in-store service to the customers. “We understand that the appliance market demands a strong after-sales service as well. We have also put in place, a robust service infrastructure to cater to the demand of servicing. We have trained our staff across the network to meet the needs whenever necessary.”
Courtesy: The Pioneer
Personal data monitoring of Visa applicants by U.S. government is on track to strengthen national security.
The US policy of gaining access to and monitoring personal data of individuals, especially those visiting the country, to strengthen its national security apparatus appears to be on course. After US President Donald Trump’s decision on the travel ban and extreme vetting procedures for citizens of mainly predominantly Muslim countries, now comes news that immigration checks for foreign travellers to the United States will include new visa norms seeking carte blanche access to putative the visitors’ social media accounts and online profiles. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be monitored for support to for violent campaigns, terrorist links and presumably anti-America rants to prevent and/or restrict the entry of individuals who officials assess may pose a threat to US security and its citizens. The new rules also give officials the authority to seize electronic devices, mobile phones, and laptops as the case may be. Incidentally, the US State Department already has access to visitors’ phone numbers and email addresses which they can obtain anytime they feel it is required for security reasons.
Certainly, the idea of screening online profiles of visa applicants isn’t new: In 2016, the then Obama Administration had called for officials to screen the social media accounts of a select few visitors. The Trump Administration then followed up on this move and instructed officials to request information from visitors only when “such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting”. But the present move is much broader in its scope as it cracks a whip on almost all visitors entering the US. The application of the rules will now be arbitrary and could be applicable to anyone. They would most likely impact the 710,000 immigration applications and 14 million tourist visa applications the US receives annually. While the new rules could have the effect of cracking down on hate-speech content, not much should be expected by way of results in terms of its efficacy in curbing terrorist activities. It is highly unlikely that anyone planning a terror incident or spreading a radical ideology would go around making public pronouncements about his/her intent. But because the spread of terrorism is intricately linked to hate speech and extremist ideologies, there is a logic to that extent in this latest move vis-a-vis potential visitors Stateside. It would be interesting, however, if the same logic would be extended domestically in the US and its own citizens’ online profiles were monitored to the same extent as proposed for aliens to curb homegrown radicalism, mass shootings and race-related violence.
Courtesy: The Pioneer
As the fruit bat flies, it’s only 300 meters from Cyber Tower 1 to the massive food court and commercial center that was built to service Ebène Cyber city the hi-tech office community on the out skirts of Mauritius’s capital, Port Louis. But walking from the ostentatious lobby of Cyber Tower 1 to the shops and restaurants can take 20 minutes if you don’t get lost along the way. The fastest route by foot bisects car parks, traverses overgrown vacant lots, and stumbles over temporary walkways past some of the biggest businesses on the island.
Both an urban planning disaster and for many proud Mauritians the very definition of modern office life, Cyber city was first proposed by the government in 2001 as a high tech hub, and now houses almost 25,000 mostly educated, middle class workers during the week. While the development can be criticized for a shocking lack cohesiveness, poor public transport, limited parking or even difficult access by foot, its creation did bring many aspects of modern connected life to Mauritian workers.
Like other local observers, Macbeth says that despite its many design flaws, the project did what it set out to do: create a modern working environment in the African island state, while ameliorating traffic conditions in the capital, Port Louis.
Built on sugar cane fields roughly 15 km to the south along the M1 (one of two modern highways that bisect the country) and completely disconnected from the surrounding urban fabric, Cyber city was promoted as a leap into the future for Mauritius. Despite its many flaws, the 64-hectare campus boasts high-speed internet which just a half a decade ago was a rarity in the country backup electricity generators to bridge frequent power cuts, and net- working systems to guarantee that big businesses can stay online constantly. Despite the island’s geographic distance from mainland Africa, the hub is so well connected that it hosts the African Network Information Center, the internet registry platform for the entire continent.
“It’s actually a whole ecosystem of facilities: intelligent buildings, air conditioning and electric backup,” says Koomaren Chetty, CEO of Business Parks of Mauritius (BPML), the company founded by the government to create and run Cyber city.
The initial phase of the project in 2001 the building of the 12 storey Cyber Tower 1 was designed, engineered and built by Indian companies, with financing for the project covered by loans guaranteed by the Indian government, in what Chetty calls a “turn key” construction. But when BPML commissioned a second building a few years later, they used local architects and construction companies heralded at the time as an example of the Mauritians’ ability to learn quickly from foreigners.
Now in its second decade, Cyber-city highlights an important difference in planned urban growth between developed and developing countries. As the world’s cities grow and intelligent urban design becomes a global discipline, a vision of this tiny African island’s future demonstrates that the concept of a smart city is far from standardized.
“In Europe when we talk about smart cities, we think of revitalization of existing cities,” says Bertrand Moingeon, a professor at HEC in Paris who studies urban development in Mauritius. “But in many places in Africa, including Mauritius, so-called smart city developments actually do the opposite: they create exclusive urban cities far away from the dust, chaos and inequality of the existing city escape,” Moingeon explains. “It goes against social inclusiveness.”
Moingeon agrees: “What we could wish for Africa is that they really develop the most recent model of smart cities,” he says, referring to the latest European and North American developments of the concept, which emphasize social and environmental improvements. For example, in Ijburg a brand new part of Amsterdam built on reclaimed river land daycare centers, university spaces, schools, civic spaces and high- end properties were deliberately built together with the aim of creating community spaces that would be shared by people of different social-economic backgrounds and ages. There is very little urban planning, in terms of amenities, parking and pedestrian areas ongoing growth of Cyber city (several new buildings are in the early phases of construction), keeping track of vacancy rates, which officials peg at somewhere between five and 15%, and overall gross floor area, which is given at roughly 200,000 sq meters, is difficult. However, judging by the parcels of land left vacant at the center of this city, not everything has gone according to plan.
“It lacks an urban fabric there is very little urban planning, in terms of amenities, parking and pedestrian areas,” says Abbas Currimjee, an architect and developer in Mauritius. To Currimjee, the problems plaguing this artificial city are less about the actual buildings and offices they contain, and more about the the project as a whole. The modern office buildings are serviced by an outdated public transportation system. Photograph: Christopher Schuetze
Indeed, despite the fact that most of the office buildings are at least 10 storey tall, the overall density of the project appears lower than the single story residential neighborhoods that are common here on the island. Much like the cacophony of architectural styles on display, individual buildings vary in the degree of modernity and comfort and some exude a kind of shabbiness associated with a humid climate, poor ventilation, badly functioning air conditioning and the overwhelming smell of food.
During even the lightest rain showers, the awning covering the exit of Cyber Tower 1 arguably the showpiece of the project – funnels a steady gush of water on to the driveway leading up to the building with such ferocity that even cars avoid it.
on those rainy days, the shortage of parking and difficulties accessing the crowded public transport come to the fore. Instead of the sleek transport hub promised in future iterations of the smart city here in Mauritius, decidedly old- fashioned, high floored diesel buses careen from one one street-side bus stop to next, leaving the crowds of well-dressed office workers running for cover.
on those rainy days, the shortage of parking and difficulties accessing the crowded public transport come to the fore. Instead of the sleek transport hub promised in future iterations of the smart city here in Mauritius, decidedly old fashioned, high floored diesel buses careen from one one street side bus stop to next, leaving the crowds of well dressed office workers running for cover.
The new government, in place since the end of 2014, has loudly rolled out the concept of smart cities, which it prescribes as a “cure all” for everything from a sagging construction sector to a means of attracting highly trained foreign workers and their capital. The label is currently associated with half a dozen (inbuilt) projects on the island, of which Heritage City is the only one the government is spending large sums of public cash on.
“We don’t need to make new cities, we need to make our cities smarter,” says Aadil Ameer Meea, one of seven socialist MPs who form the official opposition after a recent election routed the ruling labor party. Meea, who represents a district in the capital, says that instead of putting money into new developments such as Heritage City, Port Louis itself needs to be refurbished and upgraded. Though not officially part of Cyber city, the headquarters of the Mauritian Commercial Bank took its inspiration from the planned community While much political discussion is focused on where Mauritius would get money for the new, ambitious project the government is proposing covering a good part of the projected £563 mil- lion construction costs by taking a loan from Saudi Arabia observers warn of the lessons learned from Cyber city. “of course we are inspired by what has been done elsewhere we are not inventing the wheel,” says Gaetan Siew, who chairs a technical committee that certifies these smart-city projects, bestowing them with hefty tax breaks and other incentives.
While the other projects are less ambitious in scope than Heritage City and Cyber city, and are privately funded, they all are decentralized enclaves that focus on a “live, work, play” concept, green electricity and services. According to View, just as Heritage City is centered around government, other smart city projects are meant to be linked to other themes, creating livable “knowledge hubs”. “Density is linked to sustainability,” he adds.
Back in his office in Cyber city, Chetty acknowledges the development’s short- comings and explains he has a plan in place – under the title “Smart Community” to bring stakeholders together to pay for the creation of community spaces that would allow the various buildings’
In the 1970s, the World Trade Center stood beyond the edge of the city and convinced the world that Dubai was open for business. But Meea points out that market demand seems largely missing from the plan to redevelop the island. Unlike most African countries, Mauritius’s population remains steady. There are roughly 10,000 marriages a year in this tiny country, hinting that barring a massive influx of foreigners, demand for new neighborhoods will be limited.
As commuters still get stuck in morning traffic on the way to the shab by but functional capital, they have plenty of time to ponder the lessons of the island’s landscape. To the right stands an empty sugar field, which if all goes to plan, will soon be the modern, convenient and efficient Heritage City. To the left stands Cyber city, reminding them that buildings do not always make communities and those urban developments cannot create work for everyone.
However the key to concept project success remains ability of the government to create jobs, Mauritius government pushed itself for the being the IT hub in Africa a decade ago but the follow up was lethargic. The initial planning was great but gradually the successive governments failed to attract high end talent from global IT space leading to the slowdown of the domestic IT related investments. The concept projects namely cyber city can thrive only when the parallel growth in the sector is pushed by the government and private sector.
– (Courtesy The Gaurdian -Christopher F Schuetze in Port Louis & Inputs from Rajiv Agnihotri in Mauritius)
A stable India should seek to shape the world, rather than respond to situations. On the eve of India’s foundation, no one could have imagined how successfully it would come to navigate the international system. At that time, there were legions of skeptics who believed that the half life of this new country would be measured in years, perhaps decades at most.
The question of when India would split apart was one of the staples of public discussion going back to Churchill’s celebrated remark, “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator.”
Today, however, India’s unity is taken for granted. In one of the greatest feats of modern history, India has built a cohesive nation despite incredible poverty and diversity. India has done just as well in regard to its territorial integrity. India as a unified territorial entity has survived despite being located in an extremely contested and unsettled regional environment. And, India has managed, despite great material weakness, to protect its political autonomy.
INDIA HOLDS ITS OWN
No one who has had the pleasure of negotiating with Indian colleagues on the other side of the table will conclude that this is a country that is incapable of protecting its interests. When I was working on the civil nuclear negotiations, my team was often accused of being unable to protect American interests, and of course there were a few Indians who made the same complaints about their team. But there were no Americans who walked away from that conversation believing that India is incapable of holding its own!
The reason why many outsiders invariably end up complaining about India being reactive is precisely because Indians have held on to the view with good reason that success in navigating the world derives principally from success in political, economic, and social management at home. This has characterized the way New Delhi has thought about its relationship to the world.
The first constant is an abiding obsession with economic growth. Whereas India began managing economic growth primarily through autarky and dirigisme, today it is shifting to a vision that has greater room for globalization and a greater acceptance of market forces.It is still an incomplete transition,but the fact that it is underway offers the greatest opportunities for developing the US-India relationship, not simply at the level of strategy or diplomacy, but where it matters most, in people’s cheque books and their pockets.
Second, India has focused on building state capacity and empowering its citizenry from the very beginning. It is far from completing this task successfully, and yet this is one area where India’s success will be determined entirely by its internal actions. Outsiders including well meaning outsiders like those in the US can help, but only on the margins.
The choices that India makes with respect to its own institutions and how it invests in its people will make the real difference to India’s strategy. There are big debates now, centered around the balance between the state and the market in achieving India’s goals. The US can provide ideas from the sidelines, but this is an argument that Indians will have to work through themselves.
The third and last component of India’s grand strategy has been a desire to enhance its national security while minimizing security competition. India settled for such a conservative strategy because it has always been aware of its own weakness. Weaknesses within and the unsettled environment without have pushed Indian policy makers to become defensive positionalists, focused not necessarily on improving India’s position in the world, but rather on preventing its position from deteriorating further. At its core, Indian policy therefore has always focused on avoiding the foreclosure of options.
This approach sometimes rattles an anxious US, which would like to see a far more energetic India that acts as a sharper of its environment rather than as a country that simply protects its equities. The US government must remember, however, that India’s defensive positionalism is intimately linked to its own stage of development.
The day that India overcomes the internal challenges will be the day that India gets into the shaping business as opposed to simply the adjustment business.
India today finds itself between the times. It has accomplished the core task of what states are supposed to do:to protect political integrity in the broadest sense. Such success came against great odds, but India’s tasks are now becoming far more complicated because popular expectations within are rising just when new great powers and new threats are becoming manifest in its extended neighborhood.
As India succeeds, people including many in the US have great expectations of it. Therefore, how India understands itself, its role, and its contributions will concern not only Indians, but everyone involved in the US India partnership. Americans need to appreciate that no matter what labels India uses, its size, its history, and its aspirations will always ensure that New Delhi marches to the beat of its own drum. No matter what its circumstances, India will not become the kind of treaty ally that some Americans would like to see.
The fact that India seeks to plot its own course, however, is not necessarily a threat to American interests. In fact, Washington ought to ask itself not what India can do for the United States, but what India will become: Will India be strong, even if independent, or will it be weak? An India that is strong is fundamentally in American interests, a perspective well recognized when I served in the George W. Bush administration. We did not engage in nuclear cooperation with India on the expectation that there would be a quid-pro-quo. We did not push the transformation of US Indian relations merely out of expectations that India would help us to realize narrow interests. Rather, if India could find the sources of its own strength, its success both as a democracy and as a rising power would contribute towards creating a balance of power in Asia that is ultimately favorable both to US and Indian interests.
-Ashley J. Tellis
Mobile phones have revolutionised communications beyond recognition. Gone are the days when you waited months to get a landline, and then wondered if it would actually work when you eventually got your hands on it!
Gone are the days when in order to make a call, you had to line up at an STD and hope that the few Rupees you had would suffice for that important call to a loved one overseas. Now with mobile phones and a choice of suppliers - India has seen an explosion in the mobile sector such that in 2011 there are now more than 500 million mobile phones users.
The area where calls have hitherto remained relatively expensive is of course when calling someone over- seas. More importantly, often these calls are dearer when made from your mobile phone. However, recently the concept of prepaid calling cards has been launched by several providers and this allows, via an access number and a pass code, the ability to make relatively cheaper calls overseas directly from your mobile phone.
So what is so new and clever about this innovation you may ask? Well, OE got in touch with the inventor and patent holder from London and asked some questions about the technology, as well as talking to the person who will lead on this opportunity in India.
Mr Mark Stewart, Owner of 'Speakeasy Communications Ltd' is based in the UK. We asked him:
OE: Mark you seem to have come up with an interesting innovation in mobile communication - how did this idea come to you?
MS: Well the thought of using a Calling Card to make international calls from a Mobile was at best clumsy, but also inconvenient. Having to
MS: Technically it should work in all countries. At present we are already active in 12 coun- tries including the UK, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, and Austria. In addition we are testing and at a pre- launch stage in Cyprus, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and China.
Our Speakeasy Mobile Chip is compliant with the international SIM stan- dard ISO 7816 so it will work with any 2.5G or 3G networks, and indeed any GSM or 3G mobile hand- sets including all types of Smart phones.
OE: What are the key benefits to the user?
MS: Our customers keep their existing Mobile number and provider - Yes that is right, it means you do not need to change anything. You just dial the number in the normal way or from the 'Contacts' stored on your Mobile. All international calls are carried by the Speakeasy network at lower cost. Users also have access to their online account via our dedicated website where they can check the cur- rent call rates, their usage and also 'Top Up' as and when necessary. We have also ensured that cus- tomers can Top Up by using scratch cards if that is their preference dial an access number, scratch off a PIN number and then key the actual phone number you wished to dial meant that you had to remember and dial in some cases as many as 40 dig- its!
It occurred to me if one could auto- mate this manual task as much as possible - then it would become a great aid to all users. Borne was the idea of our 'Slim SIM' which now contains a piece of special software that determines the numbers being dialled by the user. As soon as an internation- al number is dialled, it automatically diverts the call to our low cost network (prepaid) and there you have it a successful low cost international call directly from your mobile.
OE: How many countries are already using this technology?
MS: Entire globe.
OE: Do you find that some mobile operators don't quite like what you are doing?
MS: We are offering a clever and robust technology that is totally legal and technically works like a calling card, but acts like a normal call. It automates the process of dialling an access number followed by the pass code which traditionally has been a source of many complaints. Generally users end up having to dial some 30 + numbers in order to make an interna- tional call - in our system, they just dial their international number as normal, and our 'Slim SIM' takes over and does all the hard work.
We are therefore only offering an alternative to that which is already available in the market, but much easier to use and manage. If the mobile operators have no issues with existing methods, surely they can't object to, or feel aggrieved about a technology that makes the life of a user a little bit more comfortable.
OE: So you now wish to introduce this technology to India?
MS: Yes certainly. Kapil Dudakia represents Speakeasy in India. He is a person with many talents in bringing projects and innovations to market with like minded partners. We look for- ward to realising the potential of this opportunity in India over the coming months and years.
What is 'Speakeasy Mobile'?
Speakeasy Mobile is the revolu- tionary new Mobile service that empowers its customers to use their Mobile the way they want to so making massive savings without compromis- ing quality or complicating use. No matter which Mobile phone operator Speakeasy Mobile customers choose to use, Speakeasy Mobile is always a complimentary service.
What is the Speakeasy Mobile technology?
Speakeasy Mobile is a service based on the revolutionary and Patented Speakeasy Mobile SIM Device. Essentially the Speakeasy Mobile SIM device is a 128Kb memo- ry chip that can store 64 numbers, the user mobile number, a dial plan and all the information necessary to inter- act with the local Mobile network and the phone is use.
We were able to design the Speakeasy Mobile SIM Device to be wafer thin and so it can be placed on top of your existing SIM to fit snuggly back into the phone. We then took the opportunity to chat to Kapil Dudakia, who is well known not only to OE but also many in the NRI/PIO network:
OE: Kapil you are of course well known in many circles both in the UK as well as in India. What was it that first attracted you to this company 'Speakeasy Communications Ltd' and the technology they are promot- ing?
KD: When I first met Mark some months back and he demonstrated the 'Slim SIM' Speak Easy technology and how it works in practice. I have to say to you, I was utterly taken aback. My exact words were, 'Mark, this is a clever and an elegant solution.' My background is that I graduated in Electronic and Electrical Engineering and as such, when I analysed the solu- tion being offered - it was simple, clean, efficient, effective and above all it worked. What an elegant solution.
OE: OK, so it's clear you liked the product. But how did you get involved with the company?
KD: Mark informed me of the countries that had already taken up the offer of using this technology. I noticed that India was not on that list. Let's face it - India is a serious market where increasingly many more people will want to make international calls either for business, or to their family and friends overseas. The ability to make a relatively low cost internation- al call directly from your mobile, and to do so easily I felt was a perfect solu- tion for India.
OE: Can you just take me through the process of how it works from the users' perspective?
MS: OK - at present you have several options.
Option 1: Call from an ISD (either private or public) and pay the going rate. This does however mean that either you have your own ISD line, or you have to go to a public booth to make that call.
Option 2: Purchase a prepaid calling card. What you then have to do is first dial an access number (can be around 10 digits long), then you have to type in your account details (typical- ly 12 digits long) followed by the actu- al international number you wish to dial (generally around 14 digits). Tedious comes to mind.
Option 3: The 'Speakeasy' method. Just dial your international number and allow the system to do the rest. Elegant solution.
What can I say; I would choose option 3 every time.
OE: What are your plans for India?
KD: Shortly I will be embarking on a quest to find a suitable in India that has the capacity and reach to take on board the exclusive rights to the tech- nology for the whole country. Of course this means they need to be able to purchase the one off licence fee and enter into an agreement to purchase and sell a certain minimum number of Speakeasy SIMs on a monthly/yearly basis.
Companies for example who have already got access to a great distribu- tion network which they can tap into with little effort. A company that knows how to market such products and one that will also give a great serv- ice to their clients. I will be looking for a very proactive partner who really wants to secure this opportunity, and are willing to go that extra mile in get- ting it. As they say, my door is open and therefore if any one of your esteemed readers feels they are in this category - contact me.
Mobile communications is moving at a rapid pace in India. It has revolu- tionised the very concept of communi- cations. In fact for the vast majority it has allowed them to literally bypass the Internet since they have created their own social networks using SMS using their cells. We have no doubt that the next few years will bring forth a combination of technologies that will greatly enhance user experience, as well as functionality to aid the individ- ual and the business community.
Clever and innovative products continue to be invented by experts, and no doubt some of these will great- ly enhance our daily experience. At OE we look forward to the continued development of various technologies since they have the power and capaci- ty to unleash the genius that is so manifest in our nation.
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