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Project Miljul: A Study in Wireless Service Design for Emerging Markets
Priya Prakash, BBC

Track: Untethered
Date: Wednesday, February 11
Time: 4:30pm - 5:15pm
Location: California Ballroom C

Project Miljul started out as an ethnographic investigation on how wireless technologies affected the daily lives of people engaged in highly mobile street-based professions in urban Indian cities.

It was a four-week study done across Mumbai, Pune, Banglore, and Delhi, with a majority of the interviews conducted in Mumbai. The aim of the study was to understand how people engaged in highly mobile and labor-intensive professions in urban Indian cities consumed and viewed mobile technology.

Prakash's session reflects on different design methods used to explore new service frameworks in an emerging market. It investigates how contextual inquiry and anthropology can be a strategic tool to define value propositions for new services/products whose development were previously motivated purely by either marketing, business, or technological drivers. Attendees will learn about "rapid ethnography" which enables businesses to get familiar with its market more effectively than normal market research.

How did Prakash become involved with this project? "In 2002 I got a research fellowship from New media organisation SARAI, Delhi to study alternative service propositions for Indian mobile phones, based on popular urban Indian street culture. The study spanned across Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Pune for four weeks. I was 'deep hanging out' around various street stalls, to observe people going about their everyday lives, videoing and speaking to people who used the street as their workplace. This became 'Project Miljul.' Miljul in Hindi means together. And that pretty much sums up the Indian wireless landscape. People seamlessly switch between human-manned interfaces (as found in local phone booths) to using mobile phones. Everything co-exists together at the same time.

"A lot has been already written about the explosive growth rate of Indian wireless subscribers, but little qualitative research has been done about their needs and wants to have or not have a mobile phone. Project Miljul throws more light on the growing motives of this wireless market. It also questions the state of customer service which wireless service providers currently hand out to the domestic market. India is internationally known for its prowess in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and offshore call centres. It needs to pay the same amount of attention towards its growing domestic wireless market in terms of customer service and relationship management.

Prakash believes that "in the future we will talk quite less about the technology itself and more about the experiences which are incidentally powered by any damn technology. As products and services becomes more and more advanced and the common man on the street goes like 'Whatever!,' the market will realise that no gizmo is going to influence the return on investment (ROI) on a particular application. Unless it captures the imagination of the masses without putting them off because it smells too much of technology."

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