“I am 9999991010!” What an ‘Idea’!

l41.jpgIf you arrive in a flashy expensive Z3 roadster, you’ve got class! If you’re wearing a Cartier or a Rolex, you’ve got class! And now if your visiting card has those unique- 9999991010- mobile numbers printed you’ve surely got class!

If flamboyance is understood anywhere, it surely is in India. From cars to penthouses to watches and finally the “worth” possessing VIP mobile numbers. Paying a jaw-dropping Rs 15.50 lakh for a fancy cell phone number is clearly India’s most expensive ring. That’s the amount Ludhiana’s businessman Amit Malhotra coughed up for 9780000000. If one man flaunted his Rs.1.55 million (Rs.15.5 lakh) worth mobile number, there are now at least hundred others who will tell you that they bought their mobile numbers for anything between Rs.100,000 and Rs.1 million. The craze among prosperous citizens to own such fancy or VIP numbers is actually sending mobile companies laughing all the way to the banks.

The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is the latest mobile company to get richer by letting number-crazy people bid for such fancy numbers. So a number like 9864000005 went for a whopping Rs.900, 000 to a successful bidder. The mobile numbers 9864000018 and 9864000001 went for Rs.850, 000 and Rs.750, 000 respectively. Tsk tsk! But its got the BSNL officials over the moon by the response from people for the so-called “VIP” numbers.

The initiation of bidding these numbers just when they were going for free followed the crazy demand observed for these numbers among mobile users. Earlier all these VIP and fancy numbers used to be given to influential people including ministers, politicians, bureaucrats, police officials, industrialists and leading personalities of varied fields and so they are referred to as VIP where the ‘VIP’ stands for Very Important Person. Is this price to pay for a “VIP” tag really meager and the accomplishment of its possession so satisfying that the insanity of it all is just indiscernible? The insanity is manifested in the crazy desire that makes people even borrow money from friends and relatives in order to possess one such number in the guarantee to repay later. So much for just 10 digits! However there are some sane ones who haven’t yet joined the madness. For instance the mobile company Airtel, has not begun the game of selling mobile numbers to subscribers. Although Airtel possesses the only unique number of its kind in the country – 9876543210 – it has not yet sold it.

Introduced for the first time in the country, this scheme of allotting such numbers was apparently started to discourage the influential people from lobbying for the fancy mobile numbers, besides bringing money for the public sector undertaking. But this aim of a negative correlation backfired and not only failed but also gave rise to this menace. The ownership of such numbers is now a status symbol. Where the idea of paying such a heavy price for one such number seems dim-witted there are people who own numerous causing others to imagine that much money put to use for a worthwhile costs. But there seems to be no limit to price tags on status!

Tania Gupta