SPEAKING IN Moradabad on December 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had referred to a WhatsApp video showing a beggar using a swipe machine — an attempt to show how the government’s push for a cashless economy was in the realm of the possible. “I don’t know how true it is,” Modi had added as a qualifier. Turns out it was a promotional video made by Numero Graphic Creative Solutions Private Limited, a Hyderabad-based data processing and visualisation company.
The video, in which the beggar tells a woman in a car that she can pay him with her debit card and pulls out a PoS (point of sale) machine, was made in November 2013 and posted on YouTube on January 16, 2014.
“It is a promotional video that we made. We gave the beggar that swipe machine to shoot for the video,’’ said Kulpreet Kaur, co-founder of Numero Graphic, who featured in the video. Numero Graphic promotes future technologies and hi-tech solutions.
“My colleague and I started Numero Uno in March 2013 and wanted to promote our company with creative videos. Haven’t we all seen beggars at traffic junctions — how people want to give them something and end up rummaging through their wallets with no small change? As a creative solutions team, we decided to make a video of a beggar seeking alms using a PoS machine to overcome the problem of small change. Of course, then we had no idea about demonetisation or this push for a cashless economy. We planned to shoot this video on a mobile phone at the Jubilee Hills traffic signal,” said Kaur, who started Shop Pirate, a discount coupons and deals website earlier this year.
At the Sai Baba temple in Banjara Hills, where Hyderabad’s beggars gather every Thursday, Kaur and her colleague found a beggar who agreed to do the role for a small fee. “I don’t remember asking him his name. We brought him to the location and gave him a swipe machine,” Kaur said. “He did exactly what we told him, and my colleague shot the video on his mobile phone. We started recording when the signal turned red, and it was over before it turned green.
“After returning our swipe machine, the beggar went his way.”
Kaur said that this was one of the “several such creative videos” that Numero Graphic shot to promote technology. “Since the Prime Minister’s speech, our video has gone viral.’’
A month since the demonetisation, and with cashless economy being the new mantra, the beggar in the video was nowhere to be seen when The Indian Express went looking for him – neither at the Jubilee Hills traffic junction nor at Sai Baba temple. There were at least seven beggars at the traffic junction but no one recognised the man in the video. “He must have changed his location. We have been begging here for several weeks now but we haven’t seen him. Come to Sai Baba temple on Thursday evening, maybe you’ll find him there,’’ said one of them.