Caught in a Time Warp (MS Word version 0.1?)
Perhaps it is a Silicon Valley phenomenon – but we do get used to the fast pace of technology change in our world. My recent trip to Lucknow, the city I grew up in, was quite an eye-opener. There was a sea of job seekers, standing in line patiently, to get their resumes typed up. Yes indeed – typed up on typewriters, the old fashioned way.
Unfortunately, the only pictures I was able to capture were the ones from when the typists were cleaning their type writers and wrapping up. I’m sure you can draw upon your own imagination from these pictures, regardless.
The more interesting part is the business model. The typist charges Rs. 25 for the first page and Rs. 15 for each page after that, if you bring your own paper. If the typist has to supply the paper, the charge goes up to Rs. 40 for the first page and Rs. 25 for extra pages. This translates to roughly US $1 without paper, or $1.50 with paper for a two-page resume. To put it in perspective, the (white collar) jobs that were available were for salaries of roughly US $150 per month. It is a pretty hefty outlay for the prospective job seeker with risks involved too (only 1 out of 100 in line would probably get a job).
On the surface, it looks like a great opportunity for Microsoft and HP sales folks to team up and sell word processing gear. But, they would have their work cut out for them. Before even getting to the amount of capital required and the monthly or unit costs of displacing a legacy system with super duper technology, they need to figure out how the ecosystem works. And yes, I am being sarcastic when I call out word processing as super duper technology.
Unlike this snapshot from the 1970’s, and despite these dichotomies, India has a fair share of PCs and web connections and does have one foot firmly planted in the 21st century. But the percentage penetration pales in comparison to the developed world and will still take a long time to reach meaningful numbers. This is just one of those examples that underscores the many layers of geological time India lives in. You can find cultures from the 16th century co-existing with the 21st simultaneously, and sometimes within miles of each other.