From the Mouths of Kids – Mobile Insight

May 6, 2008

in general, Mobility, research

I made three new friends while in the Dharavi Slum in Mumbai. At first they just tagged along and then as we stopped at various mobile kiosks, photo booths they caught on to my interest in mobile phones and what was being used.

These three kids were some of the smartest I’ve ever met on my travels. They were 12-13 years old and school was now out for summer. The boys had each worked at different jobs during the morning. They had each earned about 150 (4 dollars) rupees which goes to the family. They had older buddies that had phones and more although they themselves did not.

This is Ashok, Ajay and Yousuf. After stopping at a kiosk where another boy was using a China Phone (no sims) as a MP3 player they began telling me all about the “china phone”.

* Two sim card slots. You can be in a call and take a call from another person with some.
* From four to seventeen speakers (although none had seen one with more than 12) very loud
* Nokia sound is terrible. Nokia is not cool.
* Has touchscreen you can use your finger or a pen.
* If it falls four times it will break.
* Repairs are a problem.
* You can buy one at “Manish Market” (where I headed later)

I learned that for kids the cellphone is first a family decision. They don’t have money… it goes to the family. Or the kids may get the phone into the house, introduce it.

We then stopped by a bank. Well only sort of. It was in the street. They were handing back ATM like cards. Even if you lost the card you never lost your money as they were linked to a finger print reader. Again it was these kids that were telling me how it worked. The bank staff said nothing really throughout the exchange.

As we left them they said they were going off to the old Fort to hang out and try and get mangoes off the tree. They were still kids! Despite stories I’ve read either this part, or this time of day didn’t make this slum, their life or where I was seem dangerous. These kids seemed on track to a much better future. I really hope they get there.

Often a smile does it. These kids adopted me and were asking my name out of curiosity and to catch my attention. They didn’t expect anything. In the end a treat of some “candies” was welcomed. They were just plain friendly. They were even willing to jump in the car and take us to other parts of Mumbai.

Kids do tell you a lot about how life works and their aspirations. They are keenly aware of what’s hot and what’s not. I’m not sure these were that unusual; they were tech savvy. Had I handed them any phone I’m sure they could have operated it; the same way kids may play on a new gaming system at a friends house and then talk about it later.

If I had one real take away from this group. Nokia is in trouble at the 4000 rupee price point. The “China Phone” had the music and the cred on this street. Its cool! Perhaps not with those that have real money or everything, but for those that want to “PLAY” music together and be noticed there’s nothing that compares.

I left this group knowing I was going to “buy” a “China Phone”. A new thought beginning in my mind that Nokia, Sony and too a lesser extent Samsung LG and others have “missed” something that is changing the category and redefining use. Add in the iPhone at the top end and the “mobile handset” market is much more competitive than I had thought. The important thing is that something is happening here and it wasn’t visible to me six months or even three months ago.

For more photos

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