One can find ample instances of mobile phones enhancing the lives of those on low and unpredictable incomes at the base of the pyramid across the world. Today I came across a small yet active example of the advantage of mobile connectivity in the context of my current research endeavors at Dharavi in Mumbai.
Jan Mohammed runs a knife-selling and knife-sharpening enterprise, which he operates from his bicycle, to service the Dharavi-Mahim-Sion area. He conducts business by going door to door in these neighbourhoods and often parks up in one of the busy marketplaces during evenings. Since buying a second-hand mobile phone he has been able to attract the business of local restaurants and caterers who provide bulk sharpening work and have become regular clients via the accessibility his phone assures.
The aspect he likes best about his phone is the prepaid payment method. Having a wife and five children back at his village in Uttar Pradesh means that he makes frequent calls home – but when he is low on money and hasn’t topped up his phonecard he can still receive calls ensuring business. In fact he had just last week paid to replace his knife-sharpening grinder so had no money left for phone credit, yet was still able to receive a lucrative call from a wedding caterer to sharpen 75 knives.
Knife-wallas elsewhere in Dharavi who conduct business without mobile phones.