June 2016 | Harish Bhat

The mobile phone has transformed our lives forever

Consumers in the digital world are in serious relationships with their mobiles, using the gadget to shop, socialise and perform a fascinating range of tasks

Sumedha is a bright Indian teenager living in Bengaluru. A college student, she enjoys Indipop music and is training to be a fashion designer. Because of her hectic study and apprenticeship schedules, she sometimes has meals late or skips them altogether. But she can never get by without her mobile phone.

On an average, she spends 3 hours and 18 minutes on the phone every day. She checks her mobile phone 77 times a day. For at least 20 minutes a day, she watches fashion-related videos on her mobile, primarily while commuting. She uses it to check WhatsApp and text messages. Very often, she uses her phone to surf the internet, or download a new mobile app. On weekends, she is at the neighbourhood Starbucks cafe with her friends, where she uses the mobile to pay for coffee and click stylish selfies. These photographs instantly go on her Facebook page, accessed through her mobile phone, of course. And when she needs a cab, she turns to the Uber or Ola app on her mobile.

Sumedha’s relationship with her mobile phone is representative of our modern digital consumer age. Globally, an average person spends 90 minutes a day on his or her mobile phone — which translates into 23 days a year, or four long years of life, spent looking at the mobile screen. Around 40 percent of this time is used on mobile apps. During the past year, an estimated 9 billion mobile apps were downloaded in India alone. A recent survey also showed that over 40 percent of Indian mobile phone users watch videos on their phones — while commuting, having dinner, going to bed, etc — and, interestingly, spiritual videos as soon as they wake up in the morning.

No wonder many of us, like Sumedha, feel lost without our mobile phones. In fact, a new word has been coined in the English language to convey this feeling — ‘nomophobia’. Coined from ‘no mobile phone phobia’, the word means fear of being out of mobile phone contact. Some of us, who have grown up in the pre-mobile phone era, can only sit back and wonder how the world has changed so much and so quickly, since those distant days of wired landline telephones and 3-minute, long-distance trunk calls which you had to book in advance.

Many of us suffer from 'nomophobia', 'no mobile phone phobia' or the fear of being out of mobile phone contact

What is interesting, though, is that making a phone call is not the most common use of the mobile. That comes much lower down the list. Many surveys show that the most popular uses are for text messaging, WhatsApp, surfing the internet and checking social media such as Facebook — none of which involve voice communication. Then there is the use of the mobile phone as a camera, timekeeping device, gaming console and alarm clock. In more recent days, the mobile is also being increasingly used to shop from e-commerce sites, to hail taxis and to do internet banking. The mobile phone is truly the Swiss knife of our digital age.

At the Tata group, this modern Swiss knife has been used quite powerfully. Here are some examples of the wonderful, powerful and simple mobile phone ecosystems that Tata companies have built, and that you can use.

  • First and foremost, if you live in India and want to buy a mobile phone, all you have to do is step into your neighbourhood Croma store. Croma offers an extensive range of mobile phones and is a favoured destination to buy reputed brands at excellent prices. Croma also has expert salespeople who can help you buy the right mobile phone and educate you on how best to use its features. If you wish to shop for a phone from the comfort of your home, you could use Croma’s excellent website (croma.com). Very soon, you can also shop for mobiles from the Tata group’s new e-commerce site, which will be unveiled later this year.
  • You can shop for Tanishq jewellery, Titan Eye Plus eyewear or Fastrack wrist watches through your mobile phone on Titan's e-commerce website (titan.co.in).
  • If you need an excellent telecommunications service provider for your phone, you have Tata DoCoMo, which offers GSM mobile services and is one of the most youthful brands in India.
  • You can use your mobile as a remote control for your air conditioner, if you use Voltas’s new, smart, all-weather air conditioners. The Voltas app on your phone will not merely help you switch the smart air conditioners on and off, but also optimise their settings taking into account ambient weather and humidity conditions, saving over 30 percent in electricity consumption.
  • Titan, India’s favourite brand of watches, through a special app, enables you to connect your mobile phone to your Titan Juxt smartwatch. These rugged smartwatches, in conjunction with your mobile phone, can do smart things such as help you read text messages even if your phone is within your handbag or pocket and help you keep track of your fitness regimen.
  • If you are an operator of a fleet of Tata trucks or driver of a Tata Motors car, you can access, on your phone, powerful Tata Motors apps for fleet management, after-sales service and quick repairs.
  • If your company needs highly specialised engineering capabilities across major mobile platforms, from ideation, to development of mobile applications, to analytics, all these are on offer from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). TCS’s digital enterprise mobility services offer the finest capabilities in the mobile telephone space, worldwide.
  • If you are a Tata employee, you can now access the Tata group intranet on your mobile. All you have to do is download the TataWorld app, and you are set to go.

These are just a few examples. There are many more interesting applications for your mobile that Tata companies have put in place. Clearly, the mobile phone has transformed our lives forever, in the world at large, and within the Tata group too. Let me end this article with a question, and seek your answer. What is the most interesting activity you do on your mobile phone? I would be keen to hear from you.