As most of us seated on their drawing room sofas watched with horror the terrible turn of events unfold on the tv screen and read from the internet real-life terror accounts of survivors – for whom clock had stopped inside the two ill-fated luxury hotels Taj and Oberoi-Trident in Mumbai – I couldn’t stop looking at the business angle to all this. You can call me perverse, but let me tell you, I wouldn’t be writing this if it were not for one particular utterly money-worshiping news channel that tried to mint money even at this hour of national tragedy.But first, the innocuous business connections. This was probably unintended, but I couldn’t help but notice the number of times the word “Blackberry” appeared in all the news articles. Many people held hostage inside the hotels got continuous feed of the developments through their Blackberry devices. Others sent out SOS emails to officials and their relatives. Couple of foreign journalists provided minute-by-minute update of the NSG operation to their respective international news sites through their Blackberry. Given that this was an event watched closely by the international community, Blackberry couldn’t be happier. The attention it drew to its handheld device was tremendous and worth hundreds of million of advertisement dollars. All for absolutely free. Another obvious beneficiary is Kuoni Travels, whose board neatly placed at the Taj entrance was aired for several hundred minutes on all news channels without the company spending even a penny for such huge airtime.
Now the true champions of tragedy-business – the news channel I was talking about. On the channel, I was looking at the screen that played images of the last journey of martyrs who died fighting for the country. Suddenly, the screen started showing names of each of the serving officers who laid down his life and urged viewers to start SMSing! I can understand if the SMS is to provide an opinion on the terror strikes or vote for a sensitive question on national security. To my utter disgust, the screen showed a glowing “digital” candle with a text below urging viewers to “keep sending SMSes by typing ‘SALAAM’ and sending it to some goddamn number so that the candle keeps burning in the honour of the martyrs”! Basically it wanted us to believe that as long as we kept sending SMSes, the candle would keep burning. As if it costs the channel a bomb to keep the digital candle “burning” on the screen. What the hell, I thought. How would it help if all of us were to send ‘SALAAM’ messages to the channel’s number?
Of course, it won’t help anybody except the channel which would make a lot of money out of all the SMSes. Each SMS is a premium SMS and while you end up paying Rs. 3 or 6 or whatever for each message, the money that you pay is comfortably distributed by the Telecom company and the Channel. What a perverted way to make money!