It feels like a long time since I last pondered the nuances of the prepaid business model, until I came across some words written by Indian social media researcher Swati Janu. She documented her observations on the infrastructure of insecurity from the tenements of New Delhi. There’s value in reflecting on how our understanding only increases over time, and we can never say that we’ve stopped learning
This sentence caught my attention:
From a rural population that is fast going online to the resourceful teens in urban slums, the lower income demographics are choosing to buy internet, through small but recurrent amounts, which enable them to straddle the line between affordability and aspiration.
The small but recurrent amounts – the Rs 10 mobile recharge Janu writes about – are the lifeblood of the prepaid payment plan for voice, text, and data (airtime) for the now ubiquitous cellphone that has changed the landscape of the developing world.
To enable the lower income demographic’s ability to straddle the divide between their aspirations and their ability to afford them is empowering. One could say that:
Prepaid is a business model that empowers aspiration, through affordability, incrementally.
Instant gratification has never been within their purview.