10 ways technology changed lives in 2014 in India

VidyaSunil & Associates Wishes Happy New Year 2015

Rise of the instant gratification economy

Despite the troubles app-based cab companies like Uber faced last month, there’s no denying that they gave us unprecedented control over our movement within the city. Plenty of other things got Uber-fied too as the instant gratification economy exploded. The smartphone became the all-in-one tool – it helped you get any wish fulfilled. Think food ordering, spa and parlour bookings, pet care, party supplies and even getting your laundry done.

WhatsApp

Of course WhatsApp has been around but in India the smartphone became truly ubiquitous only this year, with prices crashing and fully loaded, cheap smartphones flooding the market. Suddenly, your fish vendor is sending you pictures of his fresh catch, your aunt is WhatsApping your cousin’s college speech and your investment adviser asks you to WhatsApp an image of your insurance document. There never has been such a convenient, instant, smart, multimedia way of staying connected with people 24/7, and of course it comes with boring jokes, but deal with it.

Online grocery shopping

Yes, this is very much a part of the instant gratification economy but it deserves a special mention because Indians have traditionally been “touch and feel” consumers of groceries, fruits and veggies. We rarely buy okra without snapping its tail to test its tenderness. But we took to buying groceries online, well, wholesale. And let’s admit it, who wants to waste a weekend evening standing in a supermarket queue or yelling at the local grocer: “Bhaiya woh pili wali daal do kilo dena.”

Streaming and bingewatching

In the US, cord-cutting (disconnecting from cable networks and relying solely on online entertainment providers like Netfl ix) was one of the biggest trends of 2014. While cord-cutting is yet to come to India, its cousin, bingewatching, has defi nitely joined the party here. Downloading torrents is also passe; with better broadband speeds, streaming (illegally) British, American and Scandinavian TV shows and watching whole seasons over one long sitting became the norm instead. This was also the year of the return of the podcast (audio shows) with the sleeper hit Serial. It’s the Breaking Bad of part 2 of 2014.

Power banks

With so much mobile activity, it was inevitable that the biggest currency became how much charge your phone had. Offices would ring with cries of “Please give me the USB cable!” and panic set in when the power indicator plunged to an ominous 20%, leading to frenetic measures (cut off WiFi and data, close stagnant apps, dim screen brightness). It was also inevitable that power banks would become mainstream purchases. Power banks are truly life-altering and a marvel of simple yet intelligent design, offering the freedom to charge your phone literally on the go.

Dating Apps

Swipe left or right depending on the profi le you like, and presto you got yourself a date. In a country which had no concept of dating till a few years ago, dating apps have changed the way people romance. There was a time when the question, “so where did you two meet?” would embarrass people but now, twosomes openly confess that they met on Tinder, a locationcentric matchmaking app. Inspired by the US-based Tinder’s success, entrepreneurs have come up with free apps homegrown apps such as Thrill, Woo, DesiCrush, Truly Madly and more.

Online comedy

Who would have thought Shah Rukh Khan would appear on an online comedy channel to give a satirical interview just before the release of the biggest hit this year? It happened in 2014. SRK was “interviewed” by TVF, or The Viral Fever, an immensely popular YouTube comedy channel, rivalled by AIB. Then there are the comedy duos and superstars like Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan, and Canadian Indian comics Lilly Singh, or Superwoman as she’s better known, and smaller outfits such as East India Comedy and The Satya Show. TVF even made a full-length feature fi lm this year, called Sulemani Keeda, which was released in mainstream theatres. Finally, India has its own YouTube superstars.

Front-facing cameras

According to Twitter’s “top trends of 2014”, the year has officially been declared the year of the selfie. Selfi e-sticks, which help place your phone at arm’s length for better shots, proliferated all over the planet. The biggest Hollywood stars posed in one giant selfie that became the most popular tweet of all time. Prime Minister Modi got into the game. Kim Kardashian is publishing a book of her selfies. And all this was made possible by the humble front-facing phone camera.

Flash sales

In a year that saw online retail in India maturing so much that offline retailers started panicking, and many products began to be sold only in online marketplaces, the fl ash sale became a part of Indian marketing lexicon. These sales developed their own processes and protocol: registering beforehand, freeing up time to sit in front of your laptop (or, increasingly, getting on to a smartphone app) at the stroke of the sale opening time, moving quick as lightning to put the product in your e-cart, hoping the retailer would actually be able to fulfill the purchase, waiting for that precious cargo to arrive β€” and occasionally, venting online at the way your favourite retailer had let you down. But glitches didn’t deter shoppers β€” in December, Google’s three-day Great Online Shopping Festival saw double the traffic compared to last year, says IMRB data. Interestingly, most shoppers belonged to small towns.

Fitness trackers

As the fitness boom continued, more and more Indians realized that it is not enough to go for a gentle stroll around the park unless you kept track of all your fitness data β€” calories burned, heart rate, steps taken and so on. Many of these wearable devices even let you monitor your sleep patterns and log your activities and meals. They can be paired with your smartphone and you can share your fi tness socially. Most big online retailers now sell multiple brands, and Xiaomi announced it would start selling its cutprice $13 fi tness band in 2015.

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