One of the biggest problem I have encountered so far is finding a reliable broadband internet access. That should surprise most considering India's reputation as IT outsourcing destination of choice worldwide. For residential use broadband is still in infancy here. The price is very high. The procedure is so bureaucratic that as a tourist you can forget about getting a connection in hurry. It requires local tax ID number, photograph and proof of residence. The coverage in patchy. The alternative in Cyber Cafes, which are in most cases very slow and expensive. Plus most don't allow you to plug in your laptop in to their network. I will have more about my experience of trying to get broadband later.
Here are couple of things I noticed based on my few days of observations and interaction with people here:
- Stock market and commodity trading boom- look like every single person and relative I interact with here can not stop crowing about his or her exploits in the stocks and commodities market. I have seen this movie before during Harshad Mehta days, we all know of the consequences.
- Watching CNBC in India: This is latest craze with even my mother in law actively tracking the ticker to see how much her share has moved higher. Last I counted there are around 7-8 channels devoted to only stock market coverage.
- Organized Retailing : This is the biggest trend and it has legs. The mom and pop stores have dominated Indian retailing for centuries. For the first time organized, multi format , modern retailing formats are being set up and I visited some of these outlets in last couple of days and the crowd in unbelievable. I will have more details on this later.
- Low cost airlines: When I shifted to USA in 2001, there were only 3 domestic airlines, today you have dozen airlines and hundreds of flights to small locations, never ever serviced by airlines before.
- Building Boom: This is the biggest building boom I have seen in my lifetime and even the old people like my father and father in law believe that this is the biggest building boom in last 60 to 70 years in India. Every where you go, it is one big construction zone. From small towns to big cities, you can not simply miss the incredible building and infrastructure boom going on here. Residential and commercial property values have gone up so much that when I hear prices I am shocked. In last 6 years prices are up 1000% plus in some areas.
- Farm land becomes hot commodity: Farmland closer to cities, mini cities, towns and industrial areas is in so much demand, that most farmers I spoke to cannot believe their luck. This has had significant social implications as the high prices are leading to family fights and lawsuits. Those who have sold their land have made so much money that they do not know what to do with instant riches.
- Mobile Phones: 10-15 years ago you had to wait 2-5 years to get telephone connection. Today cellphones have replaced landlines. Most of friends and relatives I visit have no landlines but several mobile phones with every member owning mobile phones. Mobile phones are everywhere from the rich to poor owning one in cities. The technology used here in the mobile industry is much ahead of the technology in USA, as these networks were set up in last 10 years. Youngsters have taken to mobile phones like fish taking to water. My niece and nephew, who stay and work in Mumbai were telling me that after rent the second biggest monthly expenditure for them is mobile phone. Their mobile phone monthly bill is almost twice that of their monthly food bill.