According to Wikipedia, India has about 882 million mobile phone users. The number of land line connections are a mere 35 million and they have been around far far longer than mobile phones. Compare this with a basic need like electricity. In December 2011, over 300 million Indian citizens had no access to electricity.Over one third of India’s rural population lacked electricity, as did 6% of the urban population. Of those who did have access to electricity in India, the supply was intermittent and unreliable. In 2010, blackouts and power shedding interrupted irrigation and manufacturing across the country (Source: Wikipedia)

While such growth and potential have caused major scams and losses amounting to several crore rupees, the telecom sector has given rise to many heartening signs. The numbers above claim that about 70% of our population have access to mobile phones. This means so many people can connect easily with the rest of the world.

Consider a situation 10 years ago for any Indian village. While the urban areas were getting better, the villages did not see any major growth. Our GDP rose rapidly, thanks to all the development in the service sector. In the middle of these shining statistics, a huge bulk of India was left behind. They had no access to power, clean drinking water, sanitation, primary education and no focus on women’s development. While successive governments were battling these basic issues, protecting local art and craft was not on the list.

As with most businesses that flourish mainly because of demand, this one started dying a slow death. Craftsmen moved to alternate livelihoods. The most skilled painters were working as a daily wage labourers building huge skyscrapers for the urban audience that was growing by the day. Some of those who retained their craft started making low quality products in order to speed up their production.They used low quality raw materials. They were fighting a battle against mass produced inexpensive machine made products. Quality deteriorated and so did the demand. The second generation did not see a lucrative livelihood in this and they refused to learn the art.

Today the scenario is a little different. A craftsman can set up a stall in one of the many exhibitions. He can pass on his mobile number to prospective customers. They customers can use that number to call him and place additional orders. He can stay in touch with designs with the help of MMS, market information, exhibitions via text messages and forums. His business is slowly coming back. At this point, he should be helped with some inputs on design and quality, better supply chain processes and a steady market for his products. He needs to be handheld for a while, till he is able to work on his own and even train the next generation. All this will take some time.

From my side, I am glad for this. I am able to connect with artisans across the country. I use technology to help bridge the gap. I use technology to introduce them to urban centric products and aesthetics. I am helping them earn a livelihood with what they know best. I hope the next generation too will see this potential and take up the craft.

And my sincere thanks to the telecom industry for this.