Business cards were once a great rage for all of us when we started out in the corporate world. One of the first things you expect when you join a company is the business card. It was considered as a passport to many places. I remember the first business card (BC) I got after I joined a bank many years ago. I guess, I still retain copies of that somewhere in my trunk! It was a matter great joy, which can't be described in words when I first saw my name on a business card. I realised that I have also arrived!!!!
In the 1990's, business card had great value and usage. A person with a business card was considered well-educated, cultured and good-mannered, which many of them wouldn't be. Carrying a business card was one of the easiest ways of identifying yourself and sharing your contact details to your business associates, colleagues, friends and families. I had great pride in carrying one and hand it over to all my friends and relatives the moment they started talking about my job. The recipients of the cards in 90's also felt happy about receiving the cards. Years ago during social conversations you are looked upon with awe if you mention that you have the business card of somebody like Mukesh Ambani or Ratan Tata.
The official business cards have great commercial value particularly if you are on a house hunting spree. The house owner who looks at you with suspicion in the first place, mellows down immediately on seeing your business card, and starts addressing you "Sir". The girls in the house come out only after your hand-over the business card. Business cards also served as a useful identification for Policemen when you return home in the night.
I have always had confusion around the usage of educational qualifications on the business cards. I desisted from using any degrees and certifications on the official business card but quite a few of my friends had them. But slowly the practice of having the degrees on your business cards, particularly on the corporate side, has gone out completely. Now I see business cards only with organisational designation. Of course, professional like Doctors, Lawyers and Accountants would need to have that.
Slowly into the noughties, (2000's) our birthright of getting business cards were getting challenged! I still remember one organisation where I worked, gave me the business cards when I joined but put so many roadblocks when I wanted a re-print. We realised that the big man who ran the show didn't feel the need for us having the business cards since we no longer had any client interactions. Yes, we are not having client interactions but who will help us to get a house on rent! This caused lot of heartburn and frayed tempers and fought tooth and nail to enforce what we (a group of middle-level managers) believed our birthright!! But alas, the organisation won and I didn't get a re-print. There are other organisations where I have been pleasantly surprised with the dexterity they work when you are handed over business cards along with your complete joining package on the day you join the organisation.
Cut to the present day, I see hardly any use of business cards. With the official email, office communicators, blackberrys and ipads (lucky few!) in some cases, the official contacts are established with out business cards. Even in high-profile meetings, the business cards are exchanged more as a formality than for real exchange of contact information. On the personal side, the mobile phones and internet have completely taken over the communication and you can even sync your phone contact lists with your email contacts. Even the Policemen now ask for your employment photo-identity card, which we are expected to wear even at 1 AM when you return home!
That said, my business cards are lying uncared in my office drawer for months now. Ok, why did I start thinking about the business cards? Yes, last week somebody at a social event suddenly asked me for a business card and I digged my wallet to find one and handed over to him. Finally, it turns out that he is an Insurance professional who is going to set-up some meeting on a Saturday to take me through their ULIPs. I think I should have told him I dont have a business card!!