Indian Mobile Internet Companies

iLeher has compiled “a list of consumer Internet companies that are taking mobile seriously.” As Madhur puts it:

I was actually amazed to find out that you can do so much even without having data connectivity – just by using simple SMS. My sense is that still none of these have really gained a lot of traction among the masses, but they are taking a step in the right direction and hopefully someone will figure out the magic formula of making the users addicted to their service on mobile.

No Two Indias

Atanu Dey links to an article by Surendra Kaushik:

The most damaging thing India is currently doing to stay poor and divided instead of realizing its great potential of being a superpower is its politics of creating a new caste system and enshrining it in its constitution. . .

Unfortunately, the current government in Delhi is trying to enshrine a caste-based quota system in the educational system of India where your categorization based on the caste you were born into in pre-Independent India will give you a certain quota in higher education. This is in addition to existing job quotas based on similar considerations, different standards of your qualifications and performance in tests as well as your current economic status. In other words, an attempt to bring about forced equality of result instantly.

Equal opportunity in building human capital is what is needed, not forced equality of result through discriminatory quota systems for various castes and religions that would inflict much harm to the future of India.

In other words, as Atanu puts it, what is needed is “equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.”

People and Software

Joel Spolsky writes:

People, for the most part, are not playing with their software because they want to. Theyre using the software as a tool to accomplish something else that they would like to do. Maybe they are using a chat program to try and seem witty, in hopes that the person they are chatting with will want to spend time with them, so that, ultimately, they have a better chance of getting laid, so that, ultimately, their selfish DNA will get to replicate itself. Maybe they are using a spreadsheet to try and figure out if they can afford a bigger apartment, so that, ultimately, dates will be more impressed when they come over, increasing their chance of getting laid, again, benefitting the DNA. Maybe theyre working on a PowerPoint for the boss so that they will get a promotion so that theyll have more money which they can use to rent a larger apartment that would attract mates, thus increasing their chance of getting laid, (getting the idea yet?) so the selfish DNA can replicate. Maybe they are looking for a recipe for goat cheese ravioli on the Internet, etc., etc., DNA.

Andy Grove

Forbes writes:

What comes through in the biography and in the discussion onstage with Tedlow is how Grove made his biggest decisions: by stepping outside himself and viewing the situation coolly, at a distance.

Case in point: a fateful decision in 1985. At the time, Intel was reeling from losses in its memory chip business due to sharp competition from Japanese manufacturers. Grove had spent months wrestling with the problem, including petitioning the U.S. government to take action. Frustrated, he asked Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?” Moores answer: quit making memory chips. “Why shouldnt you and I walk out the door, come back and do it ourselves?” Grove responded. So they did.
….
Stepping outside your own concerns and pride, finding a new solution and then reentering is tough for any of us. Its far easier to pontificate on other peoples problems than to see our own clearly. But as Grove has shown, true self-awareness can be our most valuable asset.

InfoWorld 2007 Predictions

Among the seven predictions:

The prodigal Sun returns
Its no secret that Sun Microsystems has seen better days. Once the darling of the dot-com set, Suns stock now trades for less than one-tenth of its peak price in September 2000. Its product portfolio is virtually bursting at the seams with great technology, and yet analysts and the media alike have repeatedly taken it to task for its apparent failure to capitalize on its assets. Dont count Sun out yet, though. If it plays its cards right, 2007 could be the year it sees its fortunes reverse, emerging as the new champion of open source software in the enterprise.

Salesforce goes to India
Offshoring will meet SaaS (software as a service) in a battle of the low-cost service giants in 2007. Among other developments, SaaS giant Salesforce.com will be stung early in the year by a major offshore outsourcer whose prices will be cheaper and services even greater than what Salesforce.com and its AppExchange minions can offer. Salesforce will counter with the announcement that it is building major hosting sites in India, Russia, and Botswana.

TECH TALK: Best of Tech Talk 2006: Video and Social Networks

One of the longer series this year was on Video on the Internet. Along with social networking and user-generated content, video was a dominant theme through the year. This is what I wrote in the introduction:

Companies like Rajshri Media (in which I have an investment) will take Indian video content to audiences globally. Then, as broadband becomes more widely available in India, the domestic traffic will start rising. In India, a number of telcos are planning to launch IP-TV services over the next few months.

Video will also come to mobile phones in fact, it has already started. Short clips of movies, ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes, are already available for download across many Indian mobile operators. Mobile TV can manifest itself in another form through direct terrestrial broadcasting much like FM is available on many mobiles phones.

The one interesting element in the growth of video is the role of user-generated content. In the past six months, sites like YouTube have shot up in popularity. Google and Yahoo have launched their own video initiatives. Apples video iPod is a popular consumption device. The huge blue ocean of video archives from TV and movies is starting to come online. Every sports event causes an upsurge of interest and brings it with millions of new video consumers on the Internet.

These are the early days of video to the Internet. There are multiple business models being experimented with. It is not clear whether video on the Internet will be subsidized by advertising like much of the text Internet. What is clear, though, is that the ultimate form of human expression is set to begin its reign on the Internet. It should be good for content owners and users, and eventually, businesses who can communicate their messages in a more targeted form to users. It is time to get ready for the Videonet!

Three other Tech Talks aggregated opinion on MySpace, YouTube and Cyworld. This is what I wrote in the Cyworld series:

Social Networking sites in India are starting to happen. Google’s Orkut has the early advantage, but there are many others which have been launched or are in the pipeline. One factor that needs to be taken into account in India is that PC and Internet usage, though high in numbers, is not free and always available. Much of the Internet access happens from cybercafes for which users have to pay by the minute. This tends to limit the potential of social networking via a computer.

In India, I think mobiles will have to be the primary device for social networking because they are with us all the time. But mobiles too have their inherent limitations. Data networks are still quite expensive to use. Getting applications on phones is hard. SMS and voice are the only two universal interaction modes available on all phones. The challenge and opportunity lies in leveraging the mobile as a social networking platform keeping in mind the future. Phones are becoming multimedia computers, data networks will become more affordable, and the mobile internet will become much more of a reality. Japan and South Korea have demonstrated early successes in combining mobiles and social networking. India too can do the same in the next 12-18 months. In that context, we have to more to learn from a Cyworld than a MySpace or a Facebook. Keeping in mind Danah Boyd’s definition and translating it for India is what will create India’s Cyworld. The jigsaw puzzle is waiting to be solved.

Tomorrow: Changing India

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