Cyber Cafes in Mumbai
Harsha Parekh and Jyotsna Sawant
SHPT School of Library Science
SNDT Women's University
Reports the findings of a survey conducted in March 2000 with a sample of about forty Cyber cafes located in various parts of Mumbai. Of the cafes surveyed, fifty percent were in residential areas, and the other half equally distributed in college and office areas. Seven cafes were set up before 1999, more than half during 1999, and about one-third during the first quarter of 2000. The number of PCs in the cafes ranges from one to twenty-five, however, five to ten PCs are found to be most common in the cafes. Most cafes are functioning on dial-up connections, shared almost equally by PSTN and ISDN lines, and they provide service more than thirteen hours a day. The charges for services vary widely from Rs.25.00 to Rs.100.00 per hour depending upon the areas and the time when the service is provided.
To attract customers various membership schemes have also been introduced to provide the service at a cheaper rate. Most cyber cafes provide printing facility charging Rs. 10.00 for one page of black and white printout and Rs.25 to Rs. 30.00 for one page of colour printout. Some cafes provide training to the users and light refreshments etc. during surfing. Most cafes are manned by a single person only with qualifications varying from secondary school certificate to software engineering. The number of users per day varies from less than twenty to about one hundred and seventy. In one-third of the cyber cafes women constitute thirty percent of the users, where the number of housewives is insignificant. Users belonging to the age group 19 _35 form the largest group and most users are college students.
Cyber cafes are mostly used for sending and receiving e-mails and chat. In college areas students use search facilities for their practical work. Others use the Net for obtaining information on business, job vacancies, second hand cars, training courses, etc. Not all cyber cafes allow surfing of pornographic sites. Cyber cafes are mostly existing as parts of some other business. And only about forty percent owners are optimistic about its bright future. Of course, about eighty percent owners believe that their business is not facing any serious threat in the immediate future.
KEYWORDS: Cyber cafes; Mumbai; Survey.
The cyber café is yet another offshoot of IT, turning out to be a fast growing business. The Web site of cyber cafes i.e. www.Cybercafes.com lists 237 cyber cafes in India from Agra to Ulhasnagar. Over the past two years, the government as well as the IT industry have sought to popularize cyber cafes to increase the use of Internet, especially among school children and young professionals. Cyber cafes counter the high cost of PC and Net connection. Yet, the number of cafes seems to be pretty small compared to the vast size of the country.
About forty cyber cafes located in various parts of Bombay were selected for eliciting such information as to their location, year of establishment, the number of PCs being used, type of connections they had, working hours, cost per hour, provision of membership schemes, printing facility, number of persons manning the cafes and their qualifications, number of users per day, sex- and age-wise distribution of users, purpose of the use, opinion about the future of cyber cafes, etc.
The findings of the survey are presented below.
About fifty percent cafes were found to be located in residential areas, and the rest located in college and office areas.
The establishment of cyber cafes in Mumbai gathered momentum only in 1999, when more than half of the cafes were established. Prior to 1999, only seven cafes were there in Mumbai. About one-third of the cafes were established in the first quarter of 2000.
Number of PCs and Connection
The number of PCs in the cyber cafes range from a bare one to more than twenty-five. By and large, cyber cafes are having between five and ten PCs. Most cyber cafes are functioning on a dial-up connection with almost equal distribution between PSTN and ISDN lines. Most cyber cafes are working more than thirteen hours a day.
The charges for services are generally between Rs. 25.00 to Rs. 50.00 per hour, which vary considerably depending on the area. In residential areas, charges are less. At least twenty percent of the cafes in residential areas charge less than Rs. 25 an hour. In office areas, charges are most often between Rs. 50 and Rs. 100. There are various charging patterns. Some are charging a higher rate for the first hour of use and a lesser amount for subsequent hours. In residential areas, a few cyber cafes are offering concessional rates in the afternoon or at late night to attract customers. In contrast, in office areas, a few cyber cafes are having a higher rate for peak hours. A few cyber cafes in college areas offer discount for students.
As many as sixty percent of the cyber cafes , many of them in residential and college areas, offer different types of membership schemes to attract customers. One scheme requires customers to pay the membership fee for a fixed period of time varying from one month to life time and then avail discount for each hour of the use of the service. Another scheme offers group discount to the users from the same family and institution. There are other schemes for bulk hour or unlimited hour booking.
Most cyber cafes provide the printing facility. The average charge for a black and white printout is Rs. 10.00 for a page. The charge for colour printout varies from Rs.25.00 to Rs. 30.00 per page. The cafes generally provide floppy diskettes to patrons and about seventy-five percent of them provide scanning facility. There is a move to provide video conferencing facility as well.
Training and Other Facilities
About half of the cyber cafes in residential and college areas provide training to the users and about sixty percent of them provide music or light refreshments during surfing.
Most of the cyber cafes are manned by a single person only. The qualifications of the guides vary from a mere secondary school certificate to a degree or diploma in software engineering.
The use of cyber cafes varies widely from the point of view of the number of users. Nearly seventy percent of the cyber cafes have less than forty users a day, of these about thirty percent have got less than twenty users a day. On the other hand about ten percent of the cyber cafes have users ranging from eighty to one hundred seventy per day. In one-third of the cyber cafes women constitute thirty percent of the users, where the number of housewives is very small. Users belonging to the age group 19 _35 form the largest group. Most visitors are college students.
Other visitors comprise employees, businessmen and professionals. School students and senior citizens are few. Cyber cafes are mostly used for sending and receiving e-mails and chat. Searching the Net for other purposes is comparatively few. In college areas students use search facilities for their practical work. Others use the Net for obtaining information on business, job vacancies, second hand cars, training courses, etc. Not all cyber cafes allow surfing of pornographic sites.
Most cyber cafes do not form a separate entity. About fifty-five percent of them are attached to some other business. More than twenty percent cafes are attached to computer institutions, fifteen percent to computer assembling firms, seven percent to DTP and graphic centres, five percent to shops of computer hardware and peripherals. Other organisations to which the cafes are attached among others include STD centres, chocolate shops, and movie production units.
More than forty percent of owners of cyber café think it has a bright future. Easy access to e-mail and chat has become a necessity today. Hence, people will patronise cyber cafes. Others are not very sure about its bright future.
About twenty-five percent of the owners think it will exist only for one or two years; fifteen percent are not very clear about its future; and the remaining fifteen percent believe that the cyber café cannot survive alone. It will have to be tied up with other businesses like Web page designing, computer institute, e-commerce, or other dotcom companies. Of course, about eighty percent of the owners believe that their business is not facing any serious threat, even though the emergence of new cyber cafes, the declining rates of ISPs, the development of cable Internet, are all adding to competition and giving rise to price wars. Cyber cafes of residential areas where the charges are already very low are not very much worried.
Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 19, No. 4, December 2000, p.11-p.12