Miss India, 2010
Yesterday's NY Times carried an article by Anand Giridharadas that gave me an idea.
The piece was a profile of village life in India.
It centered on one Ravindra Misal, who lives in the small village of Umred.
Change is coming to Umred, and its coming through the web and through TV.
“I see Fashion TV on television, Miss India contests in the big cities,” Misal said. “So I thought, Why can’t we have that also?” And so he organized the first Mr. and Miss Umred Personality Contest, which seemed to be half about physical appearance and half about the communication skills that are all the rage in small-town India.
So Misal went on to start his own local Miss Umred competition.
It's intersting, but I think within the story and within Misal (and Umred) are the seeds of a much larger and more interesting revolution.
I am on the board of an organization called Video Volunteers.
It was founded by Jessica Mayberry, and extremely driven young woman who was first introduced to the idea of the democratization of video when she took some courses at my DV DOJO video bar & Cafe in the East Village.
She has since supplied video cameras and edit systems as well as training to thousands of people in India and around the world, allowing them to tell their own stories in video.
There is enormous and largely untapped potential here.
Up until now, the folks who have been trained by Video Volunteers have been making small documentaires cataloguing their own lives.
But with a thousand cameras across India, they represent a kind of nascent production company.
And of course, there are millions in India with video cameras (out of a population of 1.2 billion).
So just as Ravindar Misal was driven to create his own local beauty pageants, so too could he be driven to create the television and video compliments to that content - the very thing that made him aware such things even exist.
India has a massive cable market, and a highly fractionalized one. Hundreds of cable companies and thousands of channels, all competing for the attention of what is probably the largest audience in the world.
Why not turn Misal, and thousands of others like him, into producers of TV content (for sale), as well as produces of things like local pageants.
It isn't all that hard to do - and they already have all the equipment they need.
Many times in developing countries, people or nations take a kind of technological leap.
In many African countries it is simply too expensive to put in copper wires so that people can have phones.
Instead, it is much cheaper simply to leapfrog the technology and go directly to cellular - which is exactly what has happened.
Now, in India, I think it is possible to create another kind of technological leapfrogging.
To move the power to produce content (for which there is an almost limitless appetite), from the hands of a few Bollywood Studios to the hands of millions.
And not for Youtube- but for cash.