The JioPhone’s launch next month threatens to disrupt the communications and entertainment market with an “effectively free” feature phone with video and some data capabilities. Mint profiles some of India’s 500 million feature phone users and their usage behaviour. JioPhone could well become the centre of their lives
Chhabi Roy Choudhury
Age: 70 years
Annual income: Nil
Phone usage: Mostly calls
TV consumption (habits): News, cookery shows, travel shows, history, wildlife, films and daily soaps
Other forms of entertainment: Cooking, music, reading books and travelling with family
Shopping (e-commerce): She doesn’t shop online
Housewife Chhabi Roy Choudhury is a cooking enthusiast who enjoys watching cookery shows and shares her recipes with friends and relatives.
In the past, she had loyal customers for her homemade jams and sauces, a small home-based business she started years ago but gave up as she became older.
She owns a feature phone for the past five-to-six years, even though she still depends on her BSNL landline phone to make most of her calls.
She neither texts nor uses the internet on her mobile phone.
However, Roy Choudhury is planning to buy the recently announced 4G feature phone by Reliance Industries Ltd as the price is “too attractive” and she is keen on learning new phone features in order to effectively use the internet as well. —Soumonty Kanungo/Kolkata
Occupation: Domestic help
Education: Class XII
Annual income: Rs96,000
Phone habits: Messages, calls, music, clicking photos and games
TV consumption: Daily soaps, comedy shows, reality shows
Other entertainment: Visiting public recreation spots almost every evening, watching movies and visiting the mall about twice a month
E-commerce shopping: Not directly
It is difficult to miss the gleam in Meena Rao’s eyes when she hears about Reliance Jio’s launch of a new smart feature phone.
An 18-year-old domestic worker from a village near Jaipur, Meena takes computer lessons and helps out at a local restaurant in her spare time.
She aspires to support her family financially and teach her younger siblings the wonders of technology she witnesses in Mumbai.
Meena knows of her older sister conveniently messaging and sharing pictures with her friends and relatives on WhatsApp, and ordering affordable apparel from “a marketplace on her phone”.
She is keen to experience this comfort and additional connectivity.
When asked about how she intends to navigate the new phone, Meena is unfazed.
“My older brothers and the people I work for have already offered to teach me,” she says.
“Besides, I have seen people on TV using them and it doesn’t seem so difficult. I couldn’t buy a smartphone till now because whatever funds we could earn and spare were used to support my family; my sister’s phone was a gift from her husband. Rs1,500 seems a small amount and if I will receive the money back at the end of three years as you say, I don’t see a problem. My elder brother in Rajasthan will be happy to show my family pictures of my Mumbai adventures.” —Arushi Kotecha/Mumbai
Occupation: Homemaker and private tutor
Education: PG in Applied Microbiology
Annual income: Rs1.2 lakh
Phone usage: Mostly just to make calls, send text messages and occasionally listen to the radio
TV consumption/entertainment: She hardly watches TV since she has a young child and doesn’t get too much spare time. She says she prefers reading books as it’s a helpful and necessary habit to have when one is in the teaching profession.
Shopping: While she does buy from online retail as well as physical stores, she says she prefers actual visits to the stores as the touch-and-feel factor is important to her
Meenakshi Vinodhni, a homemaker and a private tutor, prefers reading a book to watching television. Her aspiration is to do a PhD in microbiology and then get into research.
Vinodhni does not own a smartphone because she doesn’t want her three-year-old to be exposed, and in the process, get addicted to it.
Even if she does buy a new phone, she will not buy a smartphone she said, not until her child is much older. —Deepti Govind/Bengaluru
Age: 24 years
Occupation: Construction worker/farmer
Annual income: Rs70,000- 80,000
Education: Class IX
Phone usage: For calls and music
TV consumption: One-to-two hours daily
Other entertainment: Watching movies
Shopping (e-commerce): Never
For Manoj Kushwaha, a 24-year-old construction worker, smartphone and internet is nothing less than a luxury. Kushwaha, whose family of four uses just one Nokia feature phone, says he doesn’t earn enough to afford a smartphone or internet for that matter. A die-hard movie fan, Kushwaha relies on single-screen theatres or, at times, just television. Kushwaha, who hails from a small village in Madhya Pradesh, works as a construction worker in New Delhi for three-to-four months and spends the rest of the year farming in his village. —Harveen Ahluwalia/New Delhi
Occupation: Receptionist at Krishna Communications
Annual income: Under Rs1 lakh
Education: BA in Sanskrit, SV Arts College, Ahmedabad
Phone usage: Ten outgoing calls per day, 10 text messages per day, Bollywood music—five-to-six songs every day, FM radio
TV consumption: One hour in the morning and three hours in the evening
Other forms of entertainment: Theatre, cultural programmes, gaming on phone, Facebook on computer
Shopping (e-commerce): Myntra and Amazon
Bhavna Solanki, a receptionist at an Ahmedabad-based advertisement company, says even when the going gets tough, music and television keep her going.
Solanki, who has earphones slung around her neck, listens to old and new Hindi songs from her feature phone when not busy at work.
Solanki says that while she is not a trained singer, she hones her skills by listening to music on her phone and watching music videos online using a computer.
She also has a smartphone, which she uses only for online chatting.
Solanki is now looking to build a career in the advertising industry, where she has spent more than seven years. She even handles basic accounting work and supervises printing and delivery of advertising materials.
“At one point of time, I had thought of pursuing a career in journalism; but it was too late then. Also I realized that advertising is one field that will not close down,” she says.