Friday, February 11, 2011

India's Cell-Phone Ride Out of Poverty

 Struggling artisans and tradespeople in rural India are finding that mobile phones are their ticket to better sales and better lives

Times are good for Ganesh Bicchwe. The festival season in India is around the corner, and in Maheshwar, a hand-loom weaving center in the central India state of Madhya Pradesh, master weaver Bicchwe's Nokia (NOK ) 3310 mobile phone is ringing busily. A garment store in New Delhi wants 500 scarves—the broad, 3-meter-long, intricately designed, fine cotton ones worn across the shoulders by Indian women—in 20 days.

A yarn supplier phones from Coimbatore in south India to say he's dispatching a consignment of raw material ordered by Bicchwe that very evening. Then, an exhibition organizer phones from Mumbai to find out whether Bicchwe can put up a stall at the site. It's a huge amount of work for Bicchwe and his staff of 35 weavers who are all working 12-hour shifts. "The pressure to deliver is mounting," says Bicchwe, with a broad grin on his face.

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