The Circumvention Economy
William is a working executive from Singapore. 34 years of age, he is a first generation Singaporean and works in advertising. Like many his age, he is internet proficient and a voracious technology user . Married with a lovely wife Raji and their two little children- like many from his and Raji’s generation, he and his family splurge on anything that aids convenience, status, productivity and entertainment.
Surrounded with multiple screens, breezing through the onslaught of new gadgets & technologies and constantly connected, they are a part of a generation that lives with an excess of choices.
The ubiquitous presence and frantic pace of technology today is overpowerful and sometimes overwhelming. This somehow defines an era of change, yet what it does not appropriately depict is- a society’s and its denizens’ perspective, predispositions, character and behavior.
And it is precisely this change of perspective that delivers an overarching impact on present and future generations- their way of working, and the society’s rules, laws and values.
We hold that thought and come back to the generation of William and Raji.
(And I define a generation not limited by an age group bracket- I define a generation as a set of people living in the same period of time, with access to similar resources and ability to use them. This puts 32 year old William alongside a 16 year old kid from a well earning metropolis breeding family, even though they are a generation apart in terms of age)
There is something unique about today’s generation of globally exposed, nuclear family bred, high income, well educated lot. They want access to everything. The fact that something is not within reach is just not acceptable to this group.
These are the strong headed opinionated people that do not accept the boundaries of technology, geography, processes, systems, or even intellectual properties and even legal boundaries.
But wait a minute- I am not talking about evil hackers or rebellious mindless zealots.
They are a different type of people and account for an increasingly increasing economically significant group.
And this is what makes them stand apart:
- They do not believe in hacking, they believe in hacks.
- They do not want stuff for free- if they value something, they pay for it
- They don’t just break in to the system- they find a way around it.
And this is the lot that is giving rise to a new economy. The circumvention economy.
William has a penchant for US TV dramas. There is something about watching them at the same day they are aired on US Telly. He tried using Hulu- but there are restrictions. As a user not in the US, Hulu is not allowed to show those shows to people outside the US. William has a few choices-
- Use a web based proxy serivce in the US (this has its limitations added to the fact that proxies don’t like the weight of streaming heavy video files)
- Try out online sites that have links to various TV shows (no guarantees there)
- Search the parallel market (torrents) or buy a pirated version from the parallel market.
Not surprisingly, these are not what William wants. He does not want bad quality versions and he can’t wait. More importantly, he is not willing to accept that a choice (getting good quality content at his time and terms) is denied to him. He takes another route.
He circumvents Hulu (and the system). He installs a VPN (pays $70 odd a year for this service) and tricks Hulu into thinking he is logged in from the US. The programme acts as a virtual ISP- masks his IP- circumvents the system by using a US IP. It could also encrypt data coming to and fro from your client machine.
In a contrast to another system where web users are branded as free loaders- here he pays extra to consume content he wants. He pays Hulu for an account + pay for the VPN service just to get access to watch all the series whenever he wants to!
He abets the Circumvention economy. Illegal? Not sure. Acceptable? Surely.
After all, his friends do it for getting music all the time. And they even pay extra to get a newly released device not available in their markets.
His wife Raji gets to play too. She likes Korean dramas (even if she does not speak the language) and sure enough, gets access to content that she wants.
In another scenario, Raji likes a dress from Japan. She had visited a Japanese website and must have that dress. (Ah! Japanese fashion!). She whips out her credit card on an impulse. And then gets what felt like a ‘karate chop’ shocker. The store does not ship the dress in Singapore.
She gives an indignant expression. And proceeds to vpost.com.sg- a (postal/delivery) service that has logistical arms in Japan. She creates an account, gets an ID (VP number) – checks out on the shopping cart at the japanese site with her VP number and a japanese physical address. She then sends off a soft copy of the invoice she receives from the Japanese shopping site to VPost. VPost then processes her order, and ships the item at her doorstep. Of course with costs attached- but no worries- at least she gets the access.
There are a few more examples demonstrating this trend- will write about them later.
The key is that is a trend (not un-noticed but certainly un-categorized- and I thought I’d classify this trend first) and it has value for Brands and companies marketing their products. It has psychological significance, anthropological and sociological significance, technological significance and sure enough- economical significance.
Do you know any more?
Think About it