Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Innovation -- and khana -- calling

This is a great story about innovative business in India -- props to Airtel for coming up with what seems to be an incredibly apt strategy to tap an underserved market.

If you've never heard of Mumbai's dabbawallas, a brief primer: These chaps deliver home-cooked meals to businessmen in what are essentially lunchboxes; they have been certified by Six Sigma, and it is estimated that they fuck up only one in 6 million orders. By nearly every account, they're awesome, efficient, down to earth, etc.

Which is why I think it is immensely perceptive for Airtel, a mobile services provider, to tap into their cache. Airtel is now giving dabbawallas prepaid cards and basic bundled handsets to offer to customers; a man comes to pick up your tiffin, and you remember that you haven't had time to run out to your electronics shop for a top up, so you ask for a Rs 500 recharge, pay the man, and the service is dispensed. Khana and cellies may not go hand in hand, but though this may not be a natural fit, it's an interesting offering -- one which could reach 400,000 households that the service provider didn't have access to before.

Anyone availing of the service? What are other inventive offerings to penetrate the Indian market, particularly in underserved urban markets?

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