Investing in India

Sramana Mitra has an interview with Paul Asel of IFC. I have met Paul on a number of occasions and have been very impressed with his thinking. This is what he has to say on investing in India:

We are optimistic about prospects for India. We believe that India is on a long term high growth path that is sustainable for the next 20 years and are looking at opportunities that will benefit from this growth trend.

At the same time, we are cautious on valuations. There are now 120 venture and private equity firms investing in India. Most have entered India in the last two years so we are seeing a rapid escalation in prices. Infosys and Wipro have achieved earnings growth of 40% per year for the last four years but are only now returning to their 2000 valuation levels. The challenge will be to dig deeper to find hidden gems at valuations that stand the test of time over a 5-7 year period.

Mobile Gaming Trends

MocoNews points to PocketGamer’s list of 10 trends. Among them:

1) Advertising-supported games
2) Get set for D2C [Gamelofts new Connect application, an iTunes-style application that lets users check out new games, view demos and then buy and download them may be the trend-setter. PocketGamer expects firms (for example, Mpowerplayer) to bring a number of publishers games together in one application.]
3) Next-generation N-Gage [N-Gage could be back with a vengeance. The line-up includes 3D games with community features – all purchasable directly from the users handset.]
4) More connectivity and multiplayer
5) Tetris will sell millions of downloads [Yes, the audience for simple puzzle games will continue to grow.]
6) More crossover with Web and online gaming [Fixed-mobile convergence continues to gain steam while publishers talk about making Web versions of their casual mobile games.]

ITU Digital Life Report

Here PDF). From the foreword:

Todays digital world has transformed individual lifestyles the world over. The computing industry has long been all-digital, the telecommunications industry is almost fully digital and the roadcasting sector is well on the way to becoming digital. Always-on internet access has become the norm, with people spending more and more time consuming digital media than any other medium. Daily lives from China to Croatia are brimming with SMS, e-mail, chats, online dating, multiplayer gaming, virtual worlds and digital multimedia. Although these technologies mean added convenience and enjoyment for many, regulators and users alike are often a step behind fast-paced innovations in this field. Concerns over privacy and data protection are important examples, as is the role of regulation in relation to content convergence and distribution. Moreover, as the number of channels for service delivery diversifies, the sectors traditional and less traditional businesses face a number of new dilemmas.

Chinese Mobile Aggregators

MocoNews quotes from a WR Hambrecht report:

its not a good outlook, with the analysts pointing to recent changes in carrier policies pushing revenues down dramatically, and encouraging a move away from subscription revenues to one-off sales which have lower ARPU and less repeat business.
They also think that carriers plan to sell content directly, with obvious negative effects on the aggregators, citing some examples:
— Mobile Video: China Mobile and China Unicom recently signed agreements with CCTV to provide video clips of the TV stations programs.
— Mobile IM: The carriers are building in-house instant messaging applications.
— Mobile Search: both China Mobile and China Unicom have apparently struck a deal with start-up Cgogo for white label services…Cgogo reportedly received a $20 million investment recently from Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing. Of course, China Mobile also has a deal with Google.

The Web Widget

Business 2.0 writes: “The reason Web widgets are important is because they are the most concrete manifestation of something else that is happening. The Web is splintering. Centralized portals don’t matter anymore in an era when Google and Digg will filter the ever-changing Web for you much more efficiently. Or you can filter it yourself with a few well-chosen widgets, and bring it to your own particular corner of the Web.”

TECH TALK: 2007 Tech Trends: 4. Verticalisation

We have seen the creation of the horizontal winners in search and social networks. Google, MySpace, Facebook are the big players. As they become big, they also have their own challenges. While verticalisation has been talked about for long, it should start happening much more in 2007. Verticalisation helps provide focus and better relevance.

This is what Eric Enge wrote on SearchEngineWatch recently:

Outsell reports that the vertical search market will reach $1 billion in revenue by 2009. And enterprise search technology provider Convera’s recent survey of more than 1,000 professionals found that only 43 percent of business professionals always find what they want from a horizontal search engine after several attempts, and half of those who don’t find what they want will then turn to a vertical search engine to improve their results.

The major search providers have long recognized the importance and benefit of verticalization, with each offering some level of vertical options in its general search. In addition, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have each developed a vertical search platform to allow developers to build a custom vertical search engine using their technology. Microsoft launched Live Search Macros in March, Yahoo’s Yahoo Search Builder debuted in August, and Google unveiled its Custom Search Engines in October.

There are also two significant startups offering vertical search platforms: Eurekster and Rollyo. In fact, it’s quite likely that the success these two companies have seen encouraged the vertical moves by the big 3 search engines.

In a sense, something similar is happening with social networks. Given peoples interests, it is natural for more targeted networking platforms to get created. MySpace and Facebook have shown the general principles for building successful social networks. The challenge now is to apply it in a narrower context. The appeal: better monetization and greater stickiness. Fred Stutzman offers some insights into making it happen:

A lot of new SNS entrants are niche-oriented. Unfortunately, simply being a niche play isn’t enough to guarantee success. We can look at these niche social networks as the modern equivalent of the bulletin board community. Research any specialty interest around the web, and you’re likely to find a mailing list or forum or poorly designed website that serves the needs of this community. The SNS that wishes to come in and replace this forum or website lacks content, community and search placement. It will be a very tough slog.

Therefore, how do you successfully niche orient a SNS? First, you can find an underserved market, or a market that didn’t really exist previously without the social dimension. One I can think of is Mychurch.org, a SNS for places of worship. You also need to seed content – if you want to build a SNS for patients or new parents, for example, ,you need to have more than just community – you need to have great content that incentivizes people to come back. Without the content dimension, a good number of niche social networks will fail.

In a way, verticalisation will bring together search and social networks. Search is about the information thats out there which needs to be found and social networks are about self-expression and making and maintaining connections with people. A successful approach needs to be able to combine both to focus on niche communities. People want to search and stay connected with others like them. Verticalisation helps them do that.

Tomorrow: Video Proliferation

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