TECH TALK: Mobile Internet: A Pyramid

For much of my Internet life, I have been a PC person. Access to the Internet has been from the computer either at home or at work. About twenty months ago, I first started using the mobile Internet and it was a revelation. At that time, the ability to read my Bloglines RSS feeds on the move was extremely exhilarating. Suddenly, I could make use of lifes empty moments. That was the start of a journey an exploration of how the mobile Internet experience can be made better. This is the story of that journey.

My interest in the mobile internet is an anomaly. I have a PC person all my life. For much of the mobile era, I ended up using phones mostly for talk and a little for SMS. I preferred emailing to SMSing. Over the past couple years, though, I started using the mobile a lot more and that has made me understand the device and its potential a lot more. This has caused me to rethink my notions of the PC-based Internet in the context of emerging markets like India.

I think of the device-using India as being split into three. The top of the pyramid has about 10 million users for whom the desktop computer with a reasonably good Internet connection is the link to the connected world. Their access is from home or work, or both. Their digital life is built around their computer. They all have mobile phones but usage is somewhat limited to its use as a phone and texting device. At times, the mobile serves as a modem on the go to be connected with the laptop. This segment is akin to most users in the developed markets. Think of this as a PC First segment.

The middle of the pyramid has about 30 million users for whom Internet access is primarily via cybercafes. Access is, on average, limited to a few minutes a day. Because of the lack of continuity in access, usage of the Internet is limited email, chat, jobs, matrimonial sites being the primary destinations. This audience is much younger than the top of the pyramid. They all have mobile phones. The consumption of mobile content (ringtones, wallpapers, games, ringback tones) is high in this segment. For this segment, the mobile is the key to the digital life. The buddy list resides not on Yahoo or Microsofts IM services, but on their phone. SMS, rather than email, is the preferred way to interact with buddies. Think of this as a Mobiles First segment.

The bottom of the pyramid is about 60 million in India. For this segment, there is no access to a computer in some cases by choice (like my parents), but in most cases, because of economic reasons. They cannot afford to own or access a computer. For them, voice communications via the mobile is their primary way to connect to the world. SMS usage is still limited because of language barriers. This is the segment which is now growing rapidly in India as the mobile user base grows. This segment is almost entirely pre-paid. Think of this as a Mobiles Only segment.

Tomorrow: The Middle

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Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.