TECH TALK: Technology’s Next Markets: India as Proxy

The world of technology as seen from one of its developing markets like India appears very different. Here’s a glimpse:

  • A computer costs double that of the per capita annual income.
  • There are only 7 computers and 35 phones for every 1000 people.
  • Only 1 in every 100 people has access to the largely English Internet.
  • Dial-up Internet access costs more than 70 cents (Rs 30) per hour, thanks to local call costs.
  • In a world that talks broadband, it is tough to even get quality narrowband connections. The bandwidth that my office has to the Internet is 164 Kbps upstream and 64 Kbps downstream (on an ADSL connection), for which we pay USD 200 per month. We pay an equivalent amount for a now-up-but-mostly-down Net connection via a cable company, which when it works, provides a fraction of the promised 128 Kbps.
  • The majority of software installed on desktops is pirated.
  • Domestic software products barely exist, thanks to piracy, the lure of dollar-based earnings for servicing international clients and the poor demand due to a low installed base of technology coupled with a limited understanding of the benefits of technology.

    But that’s the glass which is half-empty. The part of which is half-full sees that:

  • More wireless phones are now being bought in India than wired phones.
  • The GSM networks across India are as good as the best in the world.
  • India has rapidly earned a name for itself in IT outsourcing – both in software services and increasingly, in business process outsourcing.
  • Many global technology companies have opened R&D centres in India to harness local talent.
  • The IITs, IIMs and now the ISB (Indian School of Business in Hyderabad) are considered among the best educational institutions in the world.
  • Various state governments are now talking of e-governance and e-procurement.
  • Based on the closing prices on Friday (Oct 4), the market cap of both Infosys (USD 7 billion) and Wipro (USD 6.2 billion) is now greater than that of EDS (USD 5.8 billion).
  • In Abdul Kalam, India has a highly successful scientist as its President.
  • The largely illiterate dabbawallas of Mumbai run a Six Sigma operation.

    Much of what we see and read about is the impact of technology in the world’s developed markets – and this is where technological innovation has become incremental. This is because there is already a huge established base, a legacy. But there is another world comprising the world’s developing nations like India which is waiting for technology to help it leapfrog. This is a world which makes up in volumes what it lacks in purchasing power. This is where the opportunities of tomorrow lie. This is where the road to utopia leads. But for people and companies in the developed markets, it is as if this other world did not exist. This is the Invisible Market.

    Tomorrow: The Invisible Market

    Technology’s Next Markets T

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.