Frederick Noronha on Tue, 14 Sep 2010 16:00:57 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> By Shekhar Kapur: A Blackberry addict discovers grassroots enterprise in India

A Blackberry addict discovers grassroots enterprise in India

A greater âhole in the wallâ you cannot imagine. ÂA small fading sign
on the top saying âCellphoon reaparsâ barely visible through the
street vendors crowding the Juhu Market in Mumbai. On my way to buy a
new Blackberry, my innate sense of adventure (foolishness) made me
stop my car and investigate. A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet.
Grimy and uncleaned.

âCan you fix a blackberry ?â

â Of course , show meâ

â How old are youâ


Bullshit. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry
to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T shirt and pyjamaâs ! At least
if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I
have been meaning to do for a year now.

âWhatâs wrong with it ?â

âWell, the roller track ball does not respond. Itâs kind of stuck and
I cannot operate itâ

He grabs it from my hand and looks at it

âYou should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller
ball get greasy and dirty, then no workingâ

Look who was telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed
for 10 days, I leaned out to snatch my useless blackberry back.

â you come back in one hour and I fix itâ

I am not leaving all my precious data in this unwashed kidâs hands for
an hour. No way.

âwho will fix it ?â

âBig brotherâ

â How big is âbig brother?â

âbig â. umm ..thirtyâ

Then suddenly big brother walks in. 30 ??? He is no more than 19.

âWhat problem ?â He says grabbing the phone from my greasy hand into
his greasier hand. Obviously not trained in etiquette by an upmarket
retail store manager.

âNormal blackberry problem. I replace with original part now. You must
wash your hand before you use thisâ

What is this about me washing my hands suddenly ?? Â19 year old big
brother rummages through a dubious drawer full of junk and fishes out
a spare roller ball packed in cheap cellophane wrapper. ÂOriginal part
? I doubt it.

But by now I am in the lap of the real India and there is no escape as
he fishes out a couple of screwdrivers and sets about opening my

âHow long will this take ?â

â Six minutes â

This I have to see. After spending the whole morning trying to find a
Blackberry service centre and getting vague answers about sending the
phone in for an assessment that might take a week, I settle down next
to his grubby cramped work space. At least I am going to be able to
watch all my stored data vanish into virtual space. People crowd
around to see whatâs happening. I am not breathing easy anyway. I tell
myself this is an adventure and literally have to stop myself grabbing
my precious blackberry back and making a quick escape.

But in exactly six minutes this kid handed my blackberry back. He had
changed the part and cleaned and serviced the the whole phone. ÂTaken
it apart, and put it together. As I turned the phone on there was a
horrific 2 minutes where the phone would not come on. I looked at him
with such hostility that he stepped back.

âyou have more than thousand phone numbers ?â


âbacked up ?â


âMust back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing upâ

âYou tell me that now ?â

But then the phone came on and my data was still there. Everyone
watching laughed and clapped. This was becoming a show. A six minute

I asked him how much.

â 500 rupeesâ He ventured uncertainly . People around watched in glee
expecting a negotiation. Thats $ 10 dollars as against the Rs 30,000
($ 600) ÂI was a about to spend on a new blackberry or a couple of
weeks without my phone. I looked suitably shocked at his âhigh price â
but calmly paid him. Much to the disapointment of the expectant crowd.

âdo you have an Iphone ? Even the new â4â one ?

âno, whyâ

âI break the code for you and load any âappâ or film you want. I give
you 10 film on your memory stick on this one, and change every week
for small feeâ

I went home having discovered the true entreprenuership that lies at
what we call the âbottom of the pyramidâ. Some may call it piracy,
which of course it is, but what can you say about a two uneducated and
untrained brothers aged 10 and 19 that set up a âhole in the wallâ
shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the
world can throw at them.

I smiled at the future of our country. If only we could learn to
harness this potential.

âPlease wash your hands before useâ were his last words to me. Now I
am feeling seriously unclean.

Frederick Noronha

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: