Assembling and Aggregating Mobile Phones: The Social Ecology of Grey Mobile Phone Markets in Urban India

The paper makes a case for information and communication technologies (ICT), with a focus on the mobile phone related businesses against the broader backdrop of the developing economy of India. ICTs come to India through two routes; the global employment route of IT information companies or the development route of donor-driven services to bridge internal digital divide. Local and context specific small businesses are organic, market-driven and self-sustaining bringing affordable mobile phone and other ICT services to underserved contexts. Our paper reports from research on the grey mobile phone markets in urban India. We argue that a) Mobile Phones have largely emerged in developing economies as grey or illegal products and services b) Grey markets display specific characteristics as businesses c) Grey markets immerse in a cultural milieu of coded informal culture. The first focuses specifically on the variety of products and services in the market, second on the organizational arrangements and business practices of ICT grey markets and third on a variety of cultural codes that govern businessmen in grey markets. Our research is a response to the relative paucity of knowledge about grey markets dealing with ICT products, especially mobile phones, and their socio- business practices. As mobile phone proliferation and PC penetration are set to increase following augmented broadband and 3G investments from the Indian state and service providers, our research is a timely and relevant mapping exercise of ICT dispersion and immersion via grey market mechanisms.

Publisher  Mobiles for Development, 2012 NCR India

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