In August this year, India completed 5 years of commercial Internet access. We have just over a million unique Internet accounts, and about 3 million users. More new cellphone users are being added in India than are new Internet accounts. The Internet in India is still too elitist and growth still too slow. How can we change this? How can we get 10 times the current growth rate? How can the Internet impact the lives of 100 million Indians in the next 3 years? How can the Internet remove pain from our lives, how can it make a difference to us daily? How can the Internet become a utility in our lives — just like electricity and the phone?
What we need is creative thinking in terms of “emerging market technologies and solutions”. We need local solutions to our local problems. India has more in common with China and Latin America than with the US. The Internet in India will unravel very differently from the experiences of US, Europe and Japan over the past 5 years.
There are 5 components to building a mass market Internet and making it a utility service:
– Access Device: Multiple options are becoming possible for accessing the Net. What will be the mode of access? Will it be the PC, TV or cellphone?
– Access Network: The telephone company still makes Rs 25/hour when we connect to the Net — significantly more than the ISP itself! Are there alternatives?
– Community Centres: 1 million telephone lines going into PCOs serve the communications needs of 75% of India. Can something similar happen with the Internet in India?
– Payment Systems: Few Indians (about 3 million) have credit cards, fewer are keen on using them on the Net! Can we eliminate billing and use pre-paid? Are smart cards the answer?
– Applications and Services: How many Indian sites make you visit them daily?
To make a difference, the Internet has to add value to our lives. How can the Net remove pain from our lives? What will be the killer apps in India?