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Virtual world: The war of the cards

April 03, 2011

“The name’s Bond, James Bond,” the writer Ian Fleming’s brilliant line to attract potential girlfriends as well as evil nemesis in the James Bond franchise still has a place in the memory of all those who have read about it. But in reality, it is not the best way to introduce yourself. In fact, the honour goes to business cards which not only keep you alive in the receiver’s mind (and wallet) but also never go out of style.

There was a time when business cards used to define a person’s taste. A person carrying a plain business card usually had a plain personality while the most creative cards came from the ones most creative. Sadly, with the arrival of the World Wide Web, people have started trusting social websites for interaction with friends and strangers, making the business cards go out of fashion, albeit slowly.

However, freelance Journalist Farah Zahidi Moazzam disagrees, “I think both the social websites and business cards have a special place. While Facebook, Twitter and even Linkedin can introduce you to hundreds within seconds unlike business cards, the latter are handy and still add value as not everyone is tech savvy. You may meet some people once, say in a conference. That is where a business card in hand will be better than any profile on any number of websites.”

There is another kind of ‘business card’ making rounds since the turn of the millennium—the ones sent via mobile phones. Some people find them quite handy while others consider them irritating, terming them impersonal. Hamzah Faruqi, a student in Szabist University feels business cards on phone are cooler than those in print.

“People these days don’t carry wallet with them and that is why carrying business cards is a hassle,” he says, “Everyone has a phone and one can store unlimited stuff on it. I have a Blackberry which not only gives me round the clock access to websites like Facebook, but I can also save the personal information of my friends, along with their pictures on my device and carry it with me. I can send that data to any of my friend via Bluetooth, without any hassle.”

They might always be available, but for some, the traditional business cards are still the best bet. Journalist Qasim Moini prefers traditional business cards over digital ones sent via mobile any day. “In Karachi, the chances that your mobile might get snatched are pretty high. Hence, if such a thing happens, you lose all the information, your contacts, data and SMS. Having people’s data stored digitally is fine, but it pays to have a hard copy back-up.” He still feels that by not being on Facebook and Twitter, he is a winner. “Social websites are definitely less convenient than traditional business cards as I use neither. I believe in maintaining human relationships rather than maintaining make-believe online relationships.”

On the other hand, there are people who have become more tech savvy than many youngsters due to their knack for staying updated at all times. Veteran journalist Afia Salam feels that the digital facilities and their easy access have rendered traditional business cards ‘almost’ obsolete. “For me, it is far easier to search for contacts in the computer and/or mobile phone and send messages across to my friends via Twitter and Facebook than it was ever before. I not only get instant replies but save a lot of time that I would surely have wasted rummaging through my card files.”

She does have a point. Ever since the arrival of electronic communication, people have been exploring new ways to share information with each other. As our lives switch from analogue to digital, so does technology and the wide range of futuristic alternatives. Postal letters have been replaced by emails, which, in turn, have been rendered superseded by texting and instant messaging. From swapping email addresses to trading mobile phone numbers and, increasingly, connecting through an online social network are the new ‘in’ things.

Industries may change and technology may evolve, but the age-old tradition of exchanging business cards stands. Pakistan might have become technologically advanced, yet using the mobile phone during business meetings is still considered rude. Ovais Sohail, marketing head of a bank feels the traditional business cards will always remain superior to competition.

“Social networking may be popular amongst the youth yet it hasn’t made its presence felt in the business community,” he says, “It will, eventually, become part of the culture but that may take some time. The reason I would take a business card any day is because it contains your business details as well as your social network details (if any). That way, those who want to contact you electronically will do so whereas the ones who would like to interact on personal level will do what pleases them most,” he adds.