There was time when people used to visit cyber cafes for surfing, checking emails, chatting with friends etc. Those days’ people had to wait for more than half an hour outside cyber cafes to wait for their turn to log in. With the passage of time situation started changing rapidly as people began owning laptop, smartphones and tablet with internet connection. As a result of this, there has been a huge decline in the number of people visiting cyber cafes. Today people can connect to internet from anywhere and there are also wi-fi enabled zones in certain areas of the city.
The increasing net penetration has brought a bad news for cyber café owners as many of them are struggling to survive due to low visitor turnout while some others have shut their business due to declining revenues. Since last five years, many cyber cafes have shut down in the city. While those who are surviving have started offering other services like taking printouts, Xerox and scanning services. Many cyber cafes are holding online study centres and examinations, arranging video conferencing between companies and even matrimonial alliance management for families.
Thus cyber café is not a viable business to run in today’s digital era. The troubles started for cyber café even before the rise in internet penetration as these units were used by terrorists to send threatening mails to the government. Later, the government had framed new rules for cyber café owners and asked them to maintain a record of the visitors. Some of them also were asked to click photographs of visitors and maintain an online database pertaining to their contact number and address. Police has asked them to install CCTVs to monitor visitors and keep an open seating arrangement. Cyber café owners have been asked to put notice warning users from visiting pornographic websites, downloading videos, music etc. They also have been asked to keep photocopies of visitors’ identity proof.
All these steps were taken to safeguard the interest of citizens but many of them were unable to comply with the amended rules. When cyber café owners ask visitors to furnish their id proof many of them don’t have it thereby creating more hardships for them. Running an internet cafe was never a profitable business for proprietors. After business witnessing a huge decline cyber café owners hardly earn any revenue if they deduct the maintenance, rental and electricity charges.
Four cyber cafés used to exist near my residence but now all of them have shut down due low visitor turnout. Getting a licence for starting a cyber café is a tedious task. A person often has to run from pillar to post for obtaining a licence. Often police harass unlicensed cyber cafes and demand huge bribes from them. To make matters worse the Cyber Crime cell of the Mumbai Police had ordered the closure of unlicensed cyber cafes in the city.