Cheap Chinese built speakers blare thumping beats as labourers scuttle their way back after a hard day of work. The mood is set for Harish Kumar who is saunters towards an exemplification of how computer technology has trickled down to the fundamentals of society. Intently, he flips through the pages of a soft bound register as he searches for the song, movie or video that would best suit his demeanour or desire.
On what seems as a makeshift arrangement, some 15 computer operators have set up low and mid-range laptops by the roadside to capitalise on their entertainment thirsty customers. Primarily catering to construction workers and daily wage earners in Sector 119, these laptops have emerged with the rise of cheap multimedia handsets. Business is brisk and profitable, the laptops and speakers are set on precarious wooden tables with operators seated on benches; the consumers are lured by visuals and sounds of their favourite stars.
Rohit Thakur, hailing from Jhansi, the owner of three such stalls explains his contribution to this market, “I have three laptops here, two priced at ₹ 20,000 and another priced at ₹ 15,000, I had bought them from Atta market.” Primarily owning a tea stall, Rohit evolved into this business some two years ago, he mentions that he gained the knowledge of using computers by attending a crash course which cost him ₹ 500 per month in Sector 37, Noida.
He has since dispelled his knowledge to at least 5 of his fellows who assist him in his work. “We charge Rs 10 for 100 songs and Rs 10 for 50 videos; the most popular are Hindi and Bhojpuri songs. While we do not allow selective tracks for songs and videos, the consumers can be selective while purchasing the movies.” Claiming to have served up to 100 labourers each day when construction was at full swing in the area, Rohit’s income had once peaked to Rs 60,000 per month.
Mukesh, another vendor in this business learnt how to operate computers in his school. He cannot pronounce the name of the school properly but his fingers translate elegantly into computer strokes as he simultaneously transfers a video to a cell phone. “I charge Rs 30 for fully loading a 2 GB memory card with songs or videos. The cost of a movie is Rs 5 and a particular song costs Re 1.” Upon inquired about how he procured a laptop, he answered, “I got it on rent from Satpal Yadav, he owns this laptop and proceeds from my income go to him.” An excited Mukesh also mentions that a certain Anil Yadav was the first person who understood the efficacy of this market and started this business.
From providing the Ramayan, Mahabharta and Qawwali to the peppy commercial numbers, these roadside pouches of technology are novel inclusions to the labour centric market here. Ankit expresses dismay over his dwindling business due to an increase in number of vendors and a fall in the number of labourers as a result of finishing construction work. But, he refuses to part with his relatively new found source of income, he says, “This is a much better business, there will always be a need for entertainment wherever labourers are. I would put my skills to other use, but I won’t leave this technology for anything else.”