Think about where we spend most of our time in front of a PC now. It is in the Email application, and to a lesser extent, the Web Browser. There is a shift happening from files to messages, from the desktop to the “mailtop”. The triad of email, instant messaging and short message service (SMS) on cellphones creates a new window of opportunities for enterprise applications.
For India, the significance of the Internet must lie in seeking out “disruptive technologies” and leveraging them with our software expertise to extend into other markets like us. The Rest of the World (outside of US, Europe and Japan) cannot afford expensive software. What can we do for them? As we celebrate these anniversaries, we need to keep these words of Clay Christensen (the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma) in mind:
If you look at the history of most industries, the companies that at one point were widely viewed as the leaders that had unassailable competitive advantages, a decade later find themselves at the bottom of the heap, displaced by a new set of companies.
A disruptive technology is something that brings to the market a product or service that is not as good as what historically had been available, and therefore it can’t be valued or used by customers in the mainstream of the market.
Yet it takes root in a different application. It isn’t as demanding, but then these trajectories slope upward faster and intersect with the customers needs and the mainstream.
One of the things that affects the probability that an innovative venture will succeed is never to frame the fundamental challenge as a technology problem. Instead, frame it as a marketing challenge and try to find an application where customers will be absolutely delighted to have a product.
The lesson of the PC industry for India is how it disrupted and disintegrated the vertically integrated computer companies like Digital Equipment. The PC was disruptive for the computer industry in the early 1980s.
Now is the time for Indian companies to think deep into the future and innovate. As companies worldwide cut back spending in the face of the slowdown, we need to think of the “New Internet” and what discontinuities it is causing and how we can leverage them. Software is where there is an opportunity going ahead. Asia has 70% of the world’s exporters. They have to be integrated into global supply chains. They need low-cost enterprise software built around the Internet – they need the functionality but cannot pay the price: can we delight them?