I thought this picture which appeared at BusinessWeek.com was interesting – advertising of mobile phones on wheels. As you can read here, this van is used for advertising Nokia phones in rural areas of India. I find this no different than the specially painted Hummers jeeps used for advertising at local gatherings in the US but somehow the picture above is more colorful than anything I have seen in US. According to the story:

Staffers park these advertisements-on-wheels in villages, often on market or festival days. There, with crowds clustering around, Nokia reps explain the basics of how the phones work and how to buy them. Nokia has extended the concept to minivans, which can reach even more remote places.

As the story mentions, Nokia offers special features for phones in rural areas such as dustproof cases (crucial in dry rural areas) and flashlights (helpful during the frequent power outages). The designs are one big reason Nokia now claims more than 70% of the Indian market for GSM handsets (India has CDMA as well). Obviously the rural areas in Pakistan can take advantage of these phone features as well.

Another interesting note refers to community buying – something which women commonly organize in Pakistan and refer to it as “committee”.

Through conversations with slum dwellers, Nokia learned that many people form buying clubs, pooling their money to buy handsets one at a time until every member has one. The members draw lots to see who gets phones in what order.

I am not sure though how easily do people in remote areas deal with the phone menus. My guess is that they learn the basic operations and are unable to take advantage of other features. Hopefully as mobile handset companies pay more attention to the next billion of users they will find some solutions.

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