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Your Subziwala, Twitter, and Credit Cards! Guess what’s the Connection?

Posted by: Murali Madhavan On July 13, 2012 03:40 PM

A few days ago, I was buying vegetables from a neighborhood shopkeeper. Generally this department is left to the table hands of my wife, but this time she was away and I had the responsibility of keeping things going at home.

And so I started shopping, one Saturday morning, and decided to avoid the pain of doing it too often by stocking up for a week or maybe more. And when the subziwala started totaling, I nonchalantly took out a 100 Rupee note and handed it over to him.

The subziwala, a portly youngster with a humorous disposition, looked at the proffered note and said with a straight face:

“Sir, I don’t want tips. “

“Tips? No, no, just take the total bill amount and return the rest!” I told him.

He started laughing, and said:

“Looks like you are shopping for veggies after a long time. The total bill comes to four hundred and sixty two Rupees.”

I nearly collapsed. Then I decided to cover up by pretending that I had intended to produce a 500 Rupee note. But that fell flat when I rummaged around in my pocket and found that I did not have the required amount of cash.

“Do you take credit cards?” I asked him in reflex. He laughed long and hard. Then preferred to withhold a reply.

Well the net result was that, not finding an ATM close by, I left the vegetables and drove off. And found a Reliance mart on the way and bought the required items from there, this time paying by card, but of course as it always happens in a supermarket, I ended up buying a lot of stuff that I really did not want, and paid more than double the money I would have paid the friendly subziwala!

When I reflect back on this incident later, I realize, that in this kind of a situation, both the small vendor, and me as the consumer were losers. Now I can hear you asking, where does this connect? This is bound to be complicated, because the device will need power, and some complicated USB kind of electronics.

How much would it have been if the subziwala were able to take a credit card? Cards solve another problem also- the growing menace of counterfeit currency. Of course, Airtel and other companies are trying to do some kind of mobile cash stuff. But there is some one who has already done this, and has millions of customers signed up in the US and other countries!

His name is Jack Dorsey, and he is the founder of Twitter!

Jack Dorsey is a smart guy. He co-founded twitter in 2006, and has seen it grow into a social media platform second only to Facebook. And now he has launched a company, a product known by the simple name ‘Square’.

Many see Jack as the innovation successor of Steve Jobs. Like Jobs, Jack believes that real invention and innovation stem from not adding things, but by taking away things- subtracting for simplicity!

The product Jack is promoting looks a bit weird. It is a small white square, with a slot for swiping a card. The Square connects to your Smartphone- iPhone or Android. And with the help of an application, anyone can receive Credit Card payment into a bank account tied to this!

Now I can hear you asking- where does this connect? This is bound to be complicated, because the device will need power, and come complicated USB kind of electronics?

The answer is NO! The product is simplicity itself. It doesn’t require a power source. And it doesn’t need USB electronics!

Do you know where the Square connects to your Smartphone? To the Audio Jack! Just like a pair of earphones! And as for power- it generates its own power by the action of swiping the card!

And that’s where its real success lies- in its bare-bones simplicity! Cheap Smartphones are available even for 4000 Rupees! So any small time trader can take payment through a Card!

This is the real lesson of innovation- that real usability and adoptability lies in taking away complexity, rather than adding to it!

Glossary:
subziwala: green grocer

References:

http://www.wired.com/business/

http://tusb.stanford.edu/

http://allthingsd.com/

Tags: Computing Vignettes
 
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