Technology

Compelling content, localisation key to success of new emerging technologies

MUMBAI: Internet, mobile, broadband, IPTV, VoIP, 3G. It's all happening in India as far as new emerging technologies are concerned. And the core driver and differentiator for all these will be content that will be instrumental in ensuring the success or failure of these services. That was the moot point that was reiterated through the first day of the Digital Summit held by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)

The summit was kicked off today in Mumbai and the speakers dwelled on various emerging technologies, its impact in the Indian market and the various challenges that players associated with these technologies will face in the not to distant future.

IAMAI chairman and Yahoo! India country manager Neville Taraporewalla also informed that they were in talks with the government to form a legal framework, which will be conducive to the growth of the internet and mobile media.

The day started with a panel of speakers throwing light on the Potential of Internet Access Via Mobile and covering issues like the future of wireless broadband solutions in India. The session was moderated by Hungamamobile.com CEO and MD Neeraj Roy. The panel included Reliance Entertainment president Rajesh Sawhney, AirTel vice president new products development and strategic alliances Mohit Bhatnagar, Mauj Telecom COO Arun Gupta, Onmobile Asia Pacific Pvt Ltd CEO and co-founder Arvind Rao and Yes Bank LTD country head direct banking Ravishankar.

"There has been a huge change in what Internet was five years ago and what it is now and hence there is a huge opportunity for mobility. The options available are clearly more than just email. E-commerce and transaction options are what brings convenience to the consumer. However, there are some challenges in the space like screen size and application adaptability and the settings for Internet on mobile," said Roy.

Sawhney started by refuting the perception that there were only two million people in India who used Internet on mobile. "Reliance has close to 70 million subscribers and 10 million out of them use R-World," he said.

He went on to explain the 'four screen' paradigm - cinema, TV, Personal Computer (PC) and mobile. "In India there are close to 13,000 cinema screens, 100 million TV homes, 12 - 15 million PCs and 80 million mobile phones. And most importantly, mobile phone users are increasing at the rate of five million every month. Each of the 'four screens' are constantly reinventing itself, while the momentum is shifting to mobile," he said.

Analog TV has moved to Plasma/HDTV and is now poised to move towards IPTV and DTH. While PC has seen the evolution from Internet to broadband to triple play services. In the mobile space, technologies have moved from 2G, 2.5G to 2.75G and the 3G era is poised to come in by early 2007. "This year will be a landmark for the industry with DTH, IPTV and 3G services," Sawhney said.

Broadband will the be the key driver of digital entertainment and the three core content drivers of that will be movies and music, sex and gambling along with sports and gaming.

Mauj's Gupta threw light on the fact that while there were about 50 million mobile handsets in India, only 10 - 20 per cent of them were capable of browsing the Internet"By 2010, the overall number of handsets will increase by two-three fold and the number of GPRS enabled handsets will increase almost 10 fold. That means close to 40 - 50 per cent of new handsets will be GRPS enabled. But the question that comes to mind is how to get consumers to get to use the service. That can only be done by bringing the entry barrier down," Gupta said.

Onmobile's Roy, who was instrumental in developing the 123 voice enabled service for Hutch in 2001, emphasised on the fact that using voice as the interface to create a completely new mobile industry.

AirTel's Bhatnagar informed that while mobile handsets exceeded fixed lines last year, mobile revenues were poised to exceed fixed lines this year. "Mobile is on the cusp of serious growth in India. The winner and the loser in the game will be separated by how well customer experience is delivered and seen," he said.

"There is rapid consumption of mobile services in the B and C towns and if companies can talk to them in their own language, therein lies the opportunity and challenge," Bhatnagar said.

The second session titled the Business Opportunities of Broadband was moderated by Rediff.com CEO and MD Ajit Balakrishnan. The panel comprised BSNL DDG broadband Lav Gupta, ICICI Bank general manager retail assets products group Madhivanan B, Naukri.com CEO Sanjeev Bikachandani, IRCTC group general manager (IT services) Amitabh Pandey, Times Internet LTD head broadband Sanjay Trehan, Reliance Web World head of marketing Sunil Buch, and People Interactive Pvt Ltd (Shaadi.com) chairman and CEO Anupam Mittal.

With 38.5 million Indians online and 300 million connected users by 2007-08, it will be challenging to cater to diverse usability needs. As consumers adapt to sophisticated services online, the demand is expected to increase with the deployment of broadband networks connecting businesses and consumers. The panel brainstormed on how they were gearing up to service 300 million connected Indians in the light of the fact that generating profit was going to take a lot of work.

BSNL's Gupta threw some interesting questions - What justifies multi-crore investments in broadband? What justifies building up mega byte and giga byte capabilities for broadband? "The fact of the matter is that VoIP, e-governance, e-education, e-commerce do not require broadband. For individual users, broadband internet access may not necessarily give any improved user experience beyond 512 kbps. Broadband is required for IP Video, VOD and network PVR. Can we think of anything else that requires broadband? We are still at the bottom of the learning curve. There are lots of gaps in the technological phase in our country. And in the business phase, we need to deliver the services that the customer is willing to pay for," Gupta said.

"If all the pieces fall into place, by 2008 we will have 26 million broadband video users in India," he added.

IRCTC's Pandey stressed on the fact that e-commerce in India is a kicking business and it no longer belonged to the niche category. "It is real and profitable. In 2003-04, our online ticket sales went up by 76 per cent, whereas in 2004-05, they went up by 99 per cent. It offers value to the customer but what we need is better connectivity and more payment options," he said.

Naukri.com's Bikachandani emphasised on the fact that until companies engage with a new technology, they won't know what it can do. "Broadband prima facie makes sense but when we engage in it, it will start making more sense. The key will to be able to provide services in the local language of the people by having a local language browser, keyboard, Windows etc. The real opportunity lies in going local and those who will get the local language application right, will be the ones who will rule in the future," he said.

Times Internet's Trehan too stressed on the dual need of compelling content and localisation. He dwelled on various issues like the definition of broadband and whether 256 kbps could be defined as broadband when countries like Scandinavia has that of 1GB and Japan - 100 mbps and Korea - 10 mbps. "Unless we get our definition correct, you can't have on demand video or gaming," he said.

He also added that broadband would change the internet industry landscape and will redefine the way media planning and buying is done.

Shaadi.com's Mittal said that the differentiating factors in broadband would be the type of content, the type of interaction and the latency of content.

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