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Alok's Posts / Startup

How the iPad fired my Building Watchman!

For the past 15 years I have been reading the Economist Magazine religiously. The magazine is couriered to my residence every weekend and I pray I get my magazine latest by Sunday afternoon so that I can read it before the week begins.

However, there are lots of complications that prevent my copy reaching me on time.

First and foremost, the distribution agency that handles The Economist in India botches up deliveries once in a while. Which means frustrating calls in the week to them screaming ‘where is my magazine’?

Sometimes, the magazine contains the Map of India and this activates the Indian Government (following some archaic Shah Jahan  Dictat) to stamp an illegible rubber stamp stating ‘This map does not represent the real map of India’ or some non sense like that. [Yeah – as if the Militants of Jammu really study the Economist to understand where to lay their territorial claims!]. This stamping process delays the magazine by days before reaching subscribers in India.

But most challenging is the role my building Watchman plays in the delivery of my Economist!

The magazine is hand delivered by the courier men into the lobby of my apartment complex where the watchman on duty takes delivery. Next its only my fate and luck of that week that determines when the magazine travels from the Lobby to my Flat!

Sometimes, Mr. Singh (all watchmen funnily seem to be Singh’s) decides to just store my copy in his desk and meditate a long while before sending it up. Once in a while, the magazine reaches my neighbor (with whom I have fought and hence he never returns my copy to me). And surely, every 3 months my copy just disappears… never to be found again. (I guess Mr. Singh assumed there were pretty girls inside and helped himself to the issue, but was badly disappointed by the blandness inside and could not return the opened copy to me).

In short, my building Watchman had decided allowing me my reading pleasure of the Economist. For 15 years!!

Until the iPad version of the Economist arrived a couple of weeks back!!

Now, the magazine is streamed directly into my iPad –  I download it first thing on Saturday morning! No more delays, watchmen, the Indian Government and neighbors to worry about. The iPad literally fired my Watchman for me. I never have to call him with bated breath on the Intercom on Sunday at 3 pm hoping to hear ‘Yes Sir, I am just sending the magazine up’. Goodbye Mr. Singh – Hope you find enjoyment in the Bombay Times and May the Force be with you!

The point of this discussion is how the iPad and such technological gadgets are creating FRICTIONLESS COMMERCE in the new world Economy and how many more businesses and consumers will be redeemed thanks to dis-intermediation of Customs, Book Agents, Courier Companies and Building Watchmen!! Its time for entrepreneurs to really leverage this new eco-system!

Mr. Jobs, I salute you.

Ps – A small parting Marwari note – I am abroad often and never buy The Economist from the book stores coz I know my copy is waiting at home. This is a stupid idea and my miserliness of saving a few $’s  prevents me from reading the back dates copies (who ever reads back copies)?  Now, with free Wi-Fi in Starbucks and my iPad, I know what I will do on my weekends when I am abroad!!


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  1. Talk about Timing!!

    Check out this E-Mail that Just came to me!!

    Forwarded message

    From: The Economist
    Date: Sun, Dec 5, 2010 at 1:26 PM
    Subject: Distribution of the December 4th issue of The Economist

    Dear Mr Kejriwal,

    We deeply regret to inform you that we will not be able to deliver your subscription copy of the December 4th issue of The Economist. Due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to get the majority of our copies into India

    We apologise sincerely for any inconvenience this may cause. We will be extending your subscription by one week to make up for this missed copy.

    If you wish to catch up with this week’s issue of The Economist, all articles appear on our website at If you have not yet registered for full access to our website, you can do so here:

    If you have any comments regarding this or any other aspect of your subscription, please feel free to contact us on +91-22-40779216 or email Once again, we are sorry that we were unable to deliver this week’s issue to you.

    Yours sincerely,

    The Economist

  2. Alok,

    I can relate to you regarding your watchman, in my case he is Mr. Nadar for last 14 yrs. Economist shud take up ur writing for their nxt issue.

  3. Thanks for sharing, as a cartographer i’m very surprised by the persistence of such a practice. It was also confirming that this is still active today. I found a 2008 reference on the Indai Express webstie :

  4. Not just the economist. Paper is going to be a luxury.

  5. Alok, I have been reading the economist online for over 8 years now on a device called ‘laptop’ and using a piece of software called a ‘browser’.

  6. Dear Manoj,

    For the past 8 years, you have also had uninhibited access to Internet in a wonderful country called USA.

    8 years LATER, we still struggle to have quality, affordable and continous Internet access in Million $$$ apartment neighborhoods!

    So, the iPad and its offline storage of The Economist is what brings Joy to folks like us 🙂

    Manoj said:

    Alok, I have been reading the economist online for over 8 years now on a device called ‘laptop’ and using a piece of software called a ‘browser’.

  7. Yup that too. The good ole library is going to disappear. Probably going to be replaced with a cross between coffee day and bean bags stone benches landscaped surroundings and ipads on rent.

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