Innovative ways of communicating
Sitting at a rickety wooden structure on the pavement near Colombo’s main hospital, I.H. Ashoka makes a living by offering telephone calls for a small fee to customers.

The feature that sets Ashoka apart from other pavement hawkers however is the fact that he is blind. Despite the fact that he sits behind a public telephone booth, clients line up to obtain telephone calls from Suntel’s “Off the shelf” phone that sits in front of Ashoka.

His handicap does not seem to effect the efficiency with which he runs his business though, as he himself rapidly dials the numbers for his customers. “I am used to dialling now,” he says and demonstrates how quickly he can operate the machine.

Hailing from Dematagoda, the potential business venture had first dawned on Ashoka when listening to a television commercial, advertising Suntel CDMA telephones which can be charged, unplugged and then used as a wireless telephone.

“I have been doing this business for about a month now,” he says, adding that the money he earns is sufficient for him to live on. He operates only at one place in the heart of Colombo, but says that since he attracts approximately 50 to 60 customers a day, he has no wish to change his location. “I charge this phone for three hours in the night and sell calls from about 8.00 am to about 8.00 pm until the battery becomes low again,” he said.

A living example of how necessity breeds invention, Ashoka, a blind man sitting on the pavement selling telephone calls, takes entrepreneurship to new heights.

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