book review of ‘the great indian phone book’ BY ASSA DORON ( part 1)



The starting of the book is extremely dramatized and displays how it would have been done in the Film industry. There were mentions made to how our fantasies were converted into reality by making the poor communicate with the rich. There is a smart comparison made between shoes and a mobile phone and the author states that “A cheap mobile phone is the most disrupted to device to hit humanity since shoes”. The author continuous by stating that even though it’s increase the working potential of human beings it is completely disrupted the society as mobile phones now have become an item of necessity because of it being so cheap easily available .

The author also states that by 2012 there was one cell phone between every 2 Indians just shows even though poverty existed in our country 60 crore people in India had a mobile phone. Even though India has a prevalent caste system an unmatched diversity it is a country with  immense potential .The author also mentions the tycoons in the industry like Carlos Slim and Mo Ibrahim and their contribution to the industry . 

Even though the telecom industry gave a big boost to the economy, made communication easy for people and made information available at hand it posed both opportunities and threats to governments and big corporations. For the common people it was a boon as it increase the employment rates for the educated and not so educated.  Author and with how the mobile phone technology has disrupted economics, national security, disaster relief, religion and state legislation and how it has become a part of our personalities. 

PART 1 :

The First chapter starts with a brief overview of the book itself , it highlights “ Subversion, spying, governments and high-stakes capitalism”. It talks about people from different walks of life and how their life alters as they are granted with unlimited data regarding everything they would want. The author criticizes how the mass consumption of mobile phones has ‘pulverised’ characteristics of ancient India.

It moves on to how in the ancient times, people used to hardly travel, they used to usually stay close to home and only the few intellectuals and influential people travelled for war , trade and worship. Now mobile phones facilitate all three, and you can cover all of the above by just sitting at home . 

The chapter continues by throwing light on the period of the rule of the Mughal Empire . Most of the communication was done by horses and runners, literate officials and the printing process. Even though the system worked smoothly, it was a slow and tedious process. Word of mouth and gossip were the ways of communicating faster but the rulers released secrecy was needed for maintaining power.

The authors elucidates upon pre modern communication , censorship and printing press in the next few pages because they want to strike a contrast between then and now and how phones have transformed the whole process completely. 

Even though the pre modern modes of communication were tedious, they had their own advantages. The telegraph system made communication during the war extremely easy , the capacity to exchange information was a direct connection to immense power. The post card system made communication extremely cheap and made communication over long distance easier.

The next chapter focuses on the advancement of technology, telephones and mobile phones and it also talks about the development and formation of various policies by different governments such as Rajiv Gandhi’s, Vajpayee’s, P.V.  Narsimha Rao’s etc. There is a lot of emphasis laid on the connection between , the telecom industry, the policies framed by the government and the corruption among the bureaucrats.

The MNTL project established in Mumbai and DELHI was extremely successful and highly criticized at the same time. It successful because it was it held the monopoly in establishing lines and connections in these areas which generated a lot of revenue, but on the other hand it was criticized because the telecom ministry had been taking undue advantage of its control over the industry.

The chapter also covers Radio Frequency tech which was newly developed at that time and was widely used in developed nations but not in our country. The Multi -Millionaires from the Marwadi, Bania and Parsi background were the forerunners since they had connections and bribery was well known to them. It also covers the 2G Scam and how a part of the spectrum was sold off illegally by the DMK minister during the Congress Coalition. The industry flourished due to its privatization and RF spectrum technology which increased the number of users exponentially and increased employment opportunities .

PART 2 :

“This chapter highlights how the missionaries of the mobile took the phone to the people”

This chapter focuses on the journey of marketing strategies for mobile phones for various companies in India.

Airtel acknowledged the widely held preconception that a new device was geared only for the educated wealthy people in the country because the early advertisements emphasised on the business advantages of having a mobile phone. 

When the government started expanding their amenities and concession, Company started thinking of new marketing strategies, one was the joint venture of 2 companies which used a small dog named Cheeka for advertising. The dog and the phone advertisement using the tagline “ wherever you go and network follows”, was a huge success for the company.

Companies started taking bold moves with their advertisements as they realised there was a drastic change in class composition and social classes.

Companies used sales men and realised the transactions had to be simple to reach out to every class in society the main object was that people could find something that they could afford and operate, hence needed ease in technology. Airtel advertised a cell phone card named ‘magic’ in which the customer could walk out of the store with a working mobile phone in half an hour, everything was intended to be cheap easy and fast hence it appealed to the masses. The prepaid technology made the whole process simpler and sociable.

It was observed that they could provide the customer with a comfortable environment to learn  how to use the phone and most importantly try it before buying.

The last few pages revolve around how companies struggled reaching the top by using new strategies that developed better customer interaction and the chapter also focuses on how individuals set up their mobile phone stores and use different strategies to expand their customer base .

The next chapter deliberates on people involved in the formal and informal sector of the telecom industry. To focus on the magnitude of the industry, the authors mentioned the 2G spectrum. A comparative analysis is made between the efficiency of the men and woman working in the Nokia Factory, and analysed that men had it much easier and no fear in losing their job, but on the other hand woman have been empowered and have become famous and respected in their villages due to a steady source of income.

The chapter continuous with the physical process of establishing the telecom industry. The impact of the setting up the mobile towers is shown and the requirements of the AC’s to maintain the temperature proved to be a big incentive for people who had given their lands for usage. It moves on to the Informal sector of the industry which includes the people who sold second hand phones and repair phones without a corporate modus operandi. 

PART 3 :

This chapter talks about the merits of mobile phones and how this generation gained the opportunity to connect which our ancestors didn’t. It had made socializing easy, the whole process of communication and has greatly helped in spreading important information and  informing officials about the legal and political shortcomings.

Cell phones played a key role in promoting the 1999 World Commerce Organisation protests which took place in Seattle and in 2000, students recorded aggression at a protest in Toronto using just one digital camera. The 2002 Korean presidential election demonstrated the power of the mobile phone, Roh Moo Hyun, won an astonishing victory despite being denigrated in media and his website shut down for a majority of the campaign. Using cell messages, he reached out to the youth who were recent owners of mobile phones and the election saw a 60 percent of youth voter turnout which ultimately led to his victory. In 2004, Madrid witnessed devastating train bombings that killed more than 190 people three days before national elections. The ruling party attempted to lay the blame on Basque separatists and used mainstream media to propagate this charge, cell phones brought several thousand people onto the streets to protest against ‘government lies’. A colossal number of voice and text messages were sent highlighting government deceit and revealing other sources of information. The government, as a result lost the election. A Major chunk of the chapter is focused on the BSP rallying strategy for the UP elections 2007. These elections reveals the results of the decentralized knowledge “revolution”. The success was not awarded to cell phones mainly but was also stated that without them it was not possible. The telecom industry helped the Dalit activists to reduce the expenses, distance and helped overcome the mobility barriers and help create complicated political messages. The author advises against economic utopianism and while highlighting the egalitarian possibilities of mobile technology, remind us that politics is about social influence.


The Conclusion again starts with how our film would have continued. The authors state that all the clues regarding it were dispersed in the book. The first paragraph is just like a continuation of the introduction of the book , the chapter is  dramatized by depicting 2 kinds of people in India, the poor an d the rich . The whole book is focused on the profound change mobile phones have brought in our lives in India . Mobile phones gave people access to global information, challenged gender dynamics, altered practices and made a great change in political and social movements. Then a comparison has been made before 2004 and after 2004. due to the advancement of technology after 2004 it makes us forget the faltering arrival of it. before mobile phones oh exotic hard to get and extremely expensive , companies knew that they had to make the mobile phones cheap and easy to understand to appeal to the crowd .

When the cost of a call fell from Rs.16 to Rs.4  is when the telecom industry turned around. Then the chapter throws light upon how cell phones affected health. Even though it allowed people to get medical aid quickly , allowed women in Labour to get medical support there was another side of the coin which was focused on long term health hazards caused by pollution and radiation emitted by the cell phones. Then the chapter continues to talk about mobile waste which caused health damages greater than we could think of. The labour class was the one who is the most affected by this. The last part of the chapter focuses on social networks , language and media and politics and governance . “ People with cell phones acquired what often seemed a new individuality—some would call it ‘atomisation’.”  

It had been shown that text messages were spoiling our grammar and usage of language and how it impacted different country in different ways. In the end it improved the political scenario in our country, it gave the poor a medium to voice out their concerns, helped in gathering flash mobs, suggested practical ways to improve governance even though it staged many problems.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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