TECH TALK: India Internet and Mobile: Connecting Indians

This backgrounder brings us to the second issue.

What is required to service 300 million mainstream connected Indian consumers with diverse usability requisites & language barriers?

Let us first segment the customer base. I like to look at this from two different viewpoints. The first, who these potential users are, and the second, what devices are being used.

There are five segments in which users (and usage) can be classified: home users, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), large enterprises, educational and rural. Of these, the large enterprise users are most likely to be like their brethren in the developed world using mostly mid- to high-end desktops (and increasingly, wireless-enabled laptops) to get their work done. The two biggest opportunities in India are with home and SME users. The penetration of computers in both segments is about 10%: about 5 million out of 45 million middle and upper-middle class homes in urban and semi-urban India have computers, and about 1 in 10 of the 50-odd million infoworkers across SMEs have access to computers. There is very large non-consumption across both segments.

In education, there are about a million schools in India and 50,000 colleges which could use some form of computing facilities to assist in the education process. Rural India is starting to see the installation of kiosks with the likes of n-Logue and Drishtee active. Microsoft just announced a 50,000 kiosk program. The Department of Information Technology has plans to install 100,000. Considering Indias base of 600,000 villages, theres a lot to be done to reach out to the population.

The other way I like to look at the Indian market today is 10-20-30-40. There are 10 million Indians who have access to an owned PC at home and/or at work. They all have mobiles but their lives are primarily built around the computer. The next 20 million Indians have occasional access to the Internet via a cybercafe. Their digital lives are built around the mobile. This consists mainly of the youth segment. This segment is also a large consumer of the mobile value-added services. The next 30 million have no PC or Internet access, but use a mobile phone primarily for making and receiving phone calls. The next 40 million (or more) will get a mobile phone during the next 10-12 months.

The focus of the mobile operators is primarily on the last 40 million the next user base. This is not surprising the Indian mobile user base will grow to 200+ million in the next 3 years and every one of the six national operators (Airtel, Reliance, BSNL-MTNL, Hutch, Idea and Tatas) hopes to end up with a sizeable market share. The mobile data opportunity in India lies in focusing on the needs of the first 30 million users who are now ready to be beyond talk, text and the 2G services.

Tomorrow: Connecting Indians (continued)

TECH TALK India Internet and Mobile+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.