Monday, July 16, 2007

Value of information

I woke up today morning (as usual around 11am) and was checking my mail sitting in the living room. The door bell rang and I saw some people, whom I had never met before at the door. I was little resistant to allow them in our house, but they claimed that they knew our family. They started of by calling a list of people they know and most of the names sounded familiar. So out of courtesy I allowed them to come in and have a seat.

They said they were Jaggas from Rajasthan. Jaggas are people who maintain family information for several families, and they were the one who maintained for our family since last couple of centuries. This concept sounded familiar to the concept of Pandaas my dad had told me few years ago. Pandaas are folks who maintain information of people who have visited Haridwar (holy place in India). In India, I believe there are hardly any families who don’t visit Haridwar in their lifetime. Hence these people maintain a list of people who visited Haridwar since last couple of centuries at this central place. There is a master record which is passed on from generations to generations and this master record connects all the families to their roots.

After talking to the head Jagga, I realized that he knew much more about our family than anyone else in our family would know. They told me about 100 names of the people in my family. I must confess that there were some whom I never knew existed. I believe the reason they could do this is the vast information base they had gathered over generations and also because of the fact that they make their living on this information. I was amazed to see the information they had collected and memorized. They were recalling it faster than what Google would do in the modern world.

Another amazing thing I was told that they visit each of the families on their record every year and keep on updating their information base. They maintain records in a big fat book. When I asked if I could see that book, they replied saying it was extremely hard for them to carry it as it was about 2 feet tall !!! I was thinking on back of my mind it would be so cool if we could just gather all this information and upload it online so that it would help families re-connect.

Another thought that came to my mind was that the value people find in this information or consider any information. This value existed since last several centuries even when internet and computers never existed. The reason these people could run their business is only because other people were ready to pay for this information. Typically each family pays around Rs.500/- to Rs.1000/- per year to Jaggas.

Another interesting aspect is that these people realized several centuries ago that there was a business opportunity in collecting information. A lot of information existed in fragmented form and if they could collect this information into a single source it could turn into a business. This business model can still be applied on internet today. A lot of information on Internet today is fragmented. The one who can collect this information and re-organize, can turn this collective fragments of information into money. I believe search engines like Google are just beginning to this.

A lot of information exists in scattered form on internet today. The one who is willing to collect and re-organize this information can make money on it. Any ideas on what type information might be of interest to people?