Airtel reveals a hard truth

The news of Airtel launching Kannada mobile handsets is all over the papers. The June 3rd edition of the Business Standard carries the following story:

Cellular service provider, Bharti Airtel, today announced the launch of Kannada handsets and a strategic tie up with Indian Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO).

This is as part of its marketing strategy to cover 90 per cent of Karnataka's population by 2009 and to achieve deeper rural penetration, Venkatesh V, CEO, Mobile Services, Bharti Airtel, Karnataka, said.

Announcing its "Grameena Mobile Kranthi" campaign, he said that the next wave of explosive cellular growth in the state is expected to ensue in rural Karnataka. Even though Karnataka has 17 million mobile users in general, the number of rural mobile users in the state was just five million, accounting for just 13 percent of penetration in rural market.

As part of the campaign to expand subscriber base and focus on developing the rural market, Airtel has partnered with Nokia to come up with two handsets that would have the menu and sms facilities in Kannada.

Many have shed a tear or two of happiness on reading this, considering this as a great development (which it is). However, if one looks at this closely, a tragic fact emerges - the fact that the urban population of Karnataka - which is no less Kannadiga than the rural population - has to this date accepted phones with the English user interface (or, some greater souls, a English + Hindi interface)!

Why is that? Why hasn't the average urban Kannadiga mustered enough self-respect to ask for a phone in his own language? Why has the same Nokia sold hundreds of millions of mobile-phones in Hebrew, Catalan, Korean, Mandarin, Greek, and not assumed that an English user-interface would suffice? The answer lies in the hard truth that the urban Kannadiga has forgotten his true identity - that of a Kannadiga. What a tragedy!


Anonymous said...

Urban Kannadiga is ashamed to call himself kannadiga.He is under the Hindi maya and Sanskrit maya , both of which have robbed him of his identity.

Anonymous said...

when i was trying to buy a phone with kannada on it, I figured out that Nokia alone had come up with a kannada handset; again, the number of phones that were available were very less.

Roopa Sreedhar said...

Its about supply chain, whenever there is a demand a new product will be launched. Instead of making politically incorrect statements, we need to see why Kannada/kannadiga isn't seen much. We, you and I, speak to our non kannada friends in their language or English. These notes we exchange are in English. The day we change something about us, everything else around us will change.

Anonymous said...

Last year when I wanted to purchase a handset, I visited 2-3 shops asking for kannada lettered handsets. Motorola did not have anything, the other showed me a basic Nokia handset meant for display. I requested the store guy if he could get it in the coming week or so even if its the basic model, but did not work. I had to forcibly buy a Sony Ericsson handset with hindi letters on it!!!

Its not just me, many of my friends have also tried asking for the same.

The tragedy is not with the Urban kannadigas, as that with the companies who have taken us kannadigas for granted.

See I can go and write a feedback to the mobile companies asking to provide kannada lettered handsets, but it would not be the same if we all did it together.

However, its a good thing they are bringing such handsets back.

Unknown said...

why can't mobile companies comeup with local language support ?

I have seen phones having Telgu, Hindi , Tamil as a UI language but NOT kannada is those phones!

I have seen ONLY ONE nokia phone having kannada GUI.

Kishore said...

pls let me know once Kannada mobile is available in the market. I will buy immediately. Cheers.! Kishore.

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