GET­TING BACK IN TOUCH

A BREAK FROM THE ALL-CON­SUM­ING DIG­I­TAL EX­PE­RI­ENCE, GO­ING ANA­LOG SATISFIES OUR DE­SIRE TO FEEL, TOUCH AND HAVE REAL-WORLD EX­PE­RI­ENCES

India Today - - LUXURY SPECIAL + ANALOG -

My niece was very clear what she wanted for her 16th birthday—an In­stax in­stant cam­era, one that she could use to print phys­i­cal pho­tos in­stantly. So I bought it for her for about six thou­sand ru­pees. When I asked her why she wanted one, she said it was be­cause she could fi­nally hold a photo in her hand and stick it in her al­bum. Here was a young girl born and raised in an age where ev­ery­thing is dig­i­tal; she had a cam­era phone at the age of 11, yet all she wanted was a cam­era that could print phys­i­cal pho­tos!

Ear­lier in the year, I gave my sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian aunt a Car­vaan blue­tooth speaker with pre-recorded Hindi num­bers. Now ev­ery time we talk, she tells me how it re­minds her of her child­hood. Again, the ap­peal here is the form fac­tor: the Car­vaan is built to look like the tran­sis­tor ra­dio of the ’70s with a large round dial. It has gone on to be­come a best­seller, turn­ing around the for­tunes of its par­ent com­pany, Saregama.

There’s a pat­tern emerg­ing here, a resur­gence of all things phys­i­cal. To­day, when pretty much ev­ery­thing can be done on the tele­phone—from or­der­ing food to watch­ing a movie to find­ing a girl­friend—with­out ever hav­ing to meet or speak with any­one, peo­ple are craving for real things and real ex­pe­ri­ences. Cu­ri­ously, when peo­ple are look­ing to spend on phys­i­cal or ana­log prod­ucts, they don’t mind pay­ing a premium on a well-made ‘lux­ury’ prod­uct. Af­ter all, what’s driv­ing them is not a need but a cer­tain de­sire, the de­sire to

LOOKS MAT­TER (From top left) The In­stax cam­era, a Quikrite note­book and the Car­vaan player, a dig­i­tal mu­sic player which looks like an old-fash­ioned ra­dio

touch, feel and have real-world ex­pe­ri­ences as against a sani­tised, dig­i­tal one.

When you look around, you see this phe­nom­e­non un­fold­ing all around you. I am part of a What­sApp group in my apart­ment block whose mem­bers reg­u­larly meet to play board games. They go to a board game café once a month and spend an en­tire Satur­day af­ter­noon playing a new board game. “We chat, we fight, we laugh, each ses­sion brings out the hu­man emo­tions in all of us. There’s never go­ing to be a virtual or online game that will be a good enough sub­sti­tute,” says a long-time board game afi­cionado.

A cur­sory search online for LP

(short for long-playing) records and turn-ta­bles re­veals a thriv­ing in­dus­try. The LP is an ana­log sound stor­age medium where mu­sic is recorded and played on a vinyl disc, typ­i­cally of 10-inch di­am­e­ter. While each LP record can cost you any­where from Rs 500 to Rs 3,000 (for rare ones), the turn-ta­ble it­self can set you back by a few lakhs if you are look­ing for a high-end one. So, in an age where mu­sic is all but free on the in­ter­net,

LP records have caught the fancy of this gen­er­a­tion where peo­ple are choos­ing to go ana­log and spend­ing lakhs to have a good record col­lec­tion. How does one ex­plain this?

The next time you walk into an of­fice, pay at­ten­tion to what sits at the work desks. There is the ubiq­ui­tous lap­top but, in­vari­ably, also a pa­per note­book. Whether it is the mil­len­nial at her first job or the sea­soned cor­po­rate war­rior, they are us­ing some sort of note­book. As the world goes more dig­i­tal, the use of pa­per has shrunk in many ar­eas. But its al­lure and charm have grown in other ways as it of­fers an ana­log al­ter­na­tive to our largely dig­i­tal life. David Sax, in his book The Revenge of Ana­log, says, ‘When it comes to the free flow of ideas, a pen is mightier than the mo­bile or the key­board.’ Noth­ing tells the story bet­ter than the rise of the well-known brand of note­books, Mole­sk­ine. In­ter­est­ingly, Mole­sk­ine grew in the face of dig­i­tal com­pe­ti­tion. In In­dia, a Mole­sk­ine blank note­book sells for more than Chetan Bha­gat’s best-sell­ing novel. To­day, the com­pany is val­ued at more than a bil­lion euros. Ask any sta­tioner to­day, he will con­firm that note­book sales are on the rise. Need more proof? Look up ‘Bul­let Jour­nal­ing’ online. You will find that #Bul­letjour­nal or #BuJo has been used more than 7 mil­lion times on In­sta­gram! Bul­let Jour­nal­ing is a method of main­tain­ing a jour­nal in­vented a cou­ple of years ago by Ry­der Car­roll. His method has caught the fancy of young­sters largely be­cause it of­fers a dis­trac­tion-free (read phone-free) method to plan one’s life. Many note­book brands, such as Leucht­turm1917 and Quikrite by Pennline, have grown thanks to Bul­let Jour­nal­ing.

We at Wil­liam Penn con­ducted an ac­tiv­ity called ‘Write a Let­ter, Say it Bet­ter!’ at the Mum­bai air­port where we in­vited de­part­ing pas­sen­gers to write a hand-writ­ten let­ter to their loved ones. Over three days, more than a 100 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in this ac­tiv­ity; in fact, it gen­er­ated so much ex­cite­ment that peo­ple even took to so­cial media to ex­press their grat­i­tude. Two pas­sen­gers even wrote to thank me per­son­ally for or­gan­is­ing the event.

Peo­ple to­day are acutely aware of how much time they spend on the screen and how it is af­fect­ing re­la­tion­ships and lives. It is this aware­ness and an over­dose of dig­i­tal de­vices that is driv­ing peo­ple to­wards non-dig­i­tal goods, ser­vices and ex­pe­ri­ences. What peo­ple are in search of is a bal­ance—be­tween the con­ve­nience of dig­i­tal and the feel-good of ana­log, much like yin and yang. And in this search, money doesn’t al­ways mat­ter. ■

In an age where mu­sic is all but free on the in­ter­net, peo­ple are choos­ing to spend lakhs to cre­ate a good LP col­lec­tion. How does one ex­plain this?

NIKHIL RAN­JAN Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Wil­liam Penn

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