Nearly 300 million and counting. That's the number of Indians walking around with a cell phone in their pockets. Today, one in four Indians has a mobile. It's said that by 2020, every employed adult in the country would have one. From the villager sitting atop his half-drowned hut calling for help in flood-hit Bihar, to the kabadiwallah who hands you his number, it’s mobile networking like never before. It virtually reverses the socialist mantra 'talk less, work more', that many Indians half-believed for years. Now, the new Indian chant may be 'talk more, work more'. "The mobile is to India what the motor car was to America," says social scientist Shiv Viswanathan. It has opened up the world to the mohalla and vice versa. "There's a tremendous opening up of space," he says. But does more networking automatically mean more productivity? Yes, says Aditya Dev Sood, CEO of Bangalore-based Centre for Knowledge Societies (CKS), a research and design-consulting company. He says the mobile's "greatest impact would be on those people with professions that are time, location and information sensitive. For example, the owner of a hair salon can manage with just a landline phone, but for a dealer in flowers, the prices of which can vary from morning to evening, the mobile can help keep track of the rates." The mobile phone in India's pocket can do all this and more — fishermen wanting a weather update or the location of the best catch; hospitals contacting patients without a permanent address; matchmaking companies dispatching profiles of potential mates to subscribers; SMSes on the Sensex. Information, services, profits - you name it, you have it, in the palm of your hand. It is true that network coverage and mobile penetration are still limited to certain areas. But, interestingly, as a two-year-old study by CKS showed in Maharashtra, UP and Karnataka, many new mobile-users belong to poorer areas with scarce infrastructure and facilities, high levels of illiteracy and low PC and internet penetration. Sood says productivity rises because mobiles help counter the biggest challenge an aspirational society can face - inaccessibility. "Financial deals done over mobiles reduce transaction costs and enhance productivity. Mobiles are part of the organized sector already; they can also transform the informal economy substantially," says Sood. Unsurprisingly, there are parts of India where farmers hire mobile phones in the right season, when market prices need constant monitoring and they need to negotiate deals with wholesale buyers. Is the mobile phone a means of empowering the people, then? Not yet, says C P Chandrashekhar, professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU. He says the mobile cannot minimize India's crying need for basic infrastructure. "Why should rural children be happy with getting class lessons via mobile? Why shouldn't they aspire to classrooms, furniture etc?" asks Chandrashekhar. Viswanathan agrees, saying "All mobiles are not equal." But he adds that the mobile phone is a minor tool of empowerment in that it helps people make their own world better. The mobile is the new equity, concludes Sood, because it facilitates greater participation in the economy. Why ever not, when the world is in your pocket.