I was pleasantly surprised to hear the news about the availability of mobile number portability as a service in India. Some of you will know this as WNP or LNP

What this means is you can take your number with you while switching from one (phone) provider to another.

It’s interesting how the implementation will come through and who will bear the administrative costs. Because, for one thing, India is about to identify escrow companies whose sole business would be to help consumers port their numbers, as against the common practice of requiring telephone companies to be able to do that. I am looking forward to the country maturing towards this culture and look forward to the day where you cannot tell a mobile number from landline number.

On a different but related note, India has always had the advantage of skipping certain phases of innovation when compared to developed countries — especially when it comes to industries like banking, communication etc…In the same example above, US mandated WNP only in 2003 (while having launched cell phones in 1983), whereas India has launched WNP in 2008, only 5 years later.

For example, United States (and some other countries I’d hope) went through an era of mechanical ATMs, where you’d drive in to an ATM-look-alike, only it won’t be an ATM as we know today, instead a mechanical conveyor through which a real person would send money to you. Of course, this wasn’t technically anytime money, because staff wasn’t sitting around all day. The industry went through a fairly long innovation curve — as witnessed by the fact that almost all retail establishments accepted personal checks as a method of cashless payment — which I suspect India totally bypassed. By around early 90s we had embarked on internet banking, around the same time as developed countries. I would suspect from 50s to the 90s, we were pretty slow in terms of innovation and adapting to newer technologies. It is only after 90s that things really changed. Due to the liberalization of trade policies.

I don’t exactly know why I am saying this — should we all thank Rajiv Gandhi?