Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thoughts on the Digital Divide

Last week, I was at a job fair organized by a Micro Finance Institution (MFI) and the target audience were the customers of the particular MFI. Most of them were people from the lower middle class. People vying for the blue collared jobs such as typists, office assistants, drivers, maids, receptionists etc.
It is a humbling experience to meet these people and listen to their aspirations and problems.

I talked to quite a few of them. However, there was one lady whose story intrigued me the most. She must've been aged around 50 and used to work in a factory where she put windings on transformers. She was now looking for any job. Did the factory shut down? Why was she looking for a job that paid her less than the one which she had? Turns out she quit the factory job so that she could withdraw all her provident fund savings to pay a loan which she had taken for her daughter's marriage. No this is not a tragic story from a 70's bollywood movie. By paying up the loan upfront she saved on the interest which would have accrued. Or so she said.

She spoke English very fluently and could speak three other languages and was on the lookout for any decent job. I explained to her how babajob could make her life easier by showing various available jobs in one place so that she could pick and choose the ones she liked and then go ahead. Searching becomes hassle free to quite an extent. Though she did not know how to use the internet or a PC, she understood the benefit and said she would ask her daughter to search for a suitable job.

I think to bridge the digital divide, it is essential to market technology as something which makes life easier and hassle free for the masses. The masses don't care about the internet. They want better jobs. Farmers want better forecast and information. If the internet is seen as something which addresses the day to day problems of these people, then you wouldn't have to ask them to learn how to use the internet. They would learn that themselves!

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When was the last time that you went to any exhibition and remembered an exhibitor for the pamphlets/brochures they were distributing? Chances are very rare. What you might remember is what they demonstrated to you and the impact that demo had on you.
If that is the case, then should you focus your energy and resources on secondary materials such as pamphlets? Absolutely, because your customers and users expect your pamphlets or other printed marketing material to be of a certain standard. The better your flyer/pamphlet, the longer is the time before it ends up in the dust-bin. In case you didn't realize, all pamphlets/flyers end up in the waste some time or the other. It might be immediately after handing out or might be months later when the customer is moving to a new place and needs to get rid of the useless stuff.

Remember next time you are putting up a stall at a fair - pamphlets are secondary marketing materials and you are not at the fair to distribute pamphlets. You are there to make an impact on the minds of people whose pain points you are trying solve.

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Laziness leads to Innovation

So many times in the past year, I would return home to find that someone else has parked his/her bike/scooty in the spot where I usually park. Those who have faced this would know just how irritating it is. But a few weeks back, things changed.

Troubled by the chaos and bashing that ensued every morning, when people staying in the apartment complex left for their offices, the new security guard divided the whole parking area into parking spots. The parking space is now managed very efficiently and there is no confusion. It has been designed by the security guard so brilliantly that there is no way a vehicle gets stuck (at least I haven't found any design flaw till now). So now he does not need to be woken up in the morning to pus some bike out of the way.

I was amazed by the design of the parking space. But I was astonished that a security guard who has basic education designed the parking space so efficiently. I know some of my batchmates from engineering would not get it right.

The only motivation for doing this was the guard did not want to be disturbed early in the morning while he was sleeping. Did laziness lead to innovation in this case?

What do you think?

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Marking Facebook Posts as Spam - Messaging Challenge

Every now and then, there will be a moron amongst your friends who will click on a link which will lead to spam posts on your wall. The latest one doing the rounds is that of a video of Osama Bin Laden being shot. 

3 such posts on my wall and I was fed up. I clicked to remove the post. One of the options that came up was Mark as Spam. The question then was - Will marking this post as spam result in all posts from that friend as spam? Or, will it result in no more Osama videos posts? Does marking my friends post as spam result in some adverse effect on friends' facebook profile? 

Is the messaging clear, or did anybody else have these doubts in a similar situation? 

PS:I totally forgive the news channels for the Osama - Obama typo. I made the same mistake in the second para. Luckily I spotted it before it was published. 

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