Three Indian women hold cellphones

Book from McCombs Professor Chronicles How Digital Tech Helps Nations Speed Development

  • Apr 19, 2022

Professor Vijay Mahajan, Ph.D., in the McCombs School of Business has recently released “Digital Leapfrogs: How Technology is Reshaping Consumer Markets in India.” The book details the way communities leverage digital technologies to overcome tech gaps, in the process helping their countries develop more equitably.  

Landlines were scarce in rural India where he grew up, says the marketing professor and John P. Harbin Centennial Chair in Business. If one household got one, neighbors lined up to use it. Today, however, inexpensive mobile phones are transforming remote villages and farms by connecting them to the world economy, using a very different model from countries such as the United States. Dr. Mahajan’s hypothesis is that this could be a more practical model for the majority of the world’s consumers who live in developing countries. 

The book—Dr. Mahajan’s 14th—uses the term “digital leapfrogging” to describe this method, by which more accessible digital tech is helping India and Kenya skip traditional economic development steps such as telephone landlines. Both countries are extending digital development to large rural populations, in effect porting the communities straight from the 19th century into the 21st.  

“Every day it becomes all too obvious how critical a role these technological innovations will play in the continued emergence of developing countries and the 86% of global consumers who work, shop, play, live, and dream, like consumers anywhere else in the world,” said Dr. Mahajan. “In my research covering over 150 organizations and markets in developing countries, from their upscale urban neighborhoods to slums and far-flung rural farming regions, I have witnessed the exponential changes brought about by technologies.” 

Read the full Q&A with Dr. Vijay Mahajan on the McCombs School faculty research and expertise website, Big Ideas.