The opportunity in India lies in addressing the twin needs of the mobile web and home [server-centric] computing for the middle of the pyramid.
My belief is that the real opportunity for the mobile Internet will be in the middle of the pyramid at the 30 million users who have access to both the mobile and the computer, and whose digital lives are being built around the mobile. These users are less likely to live in South Mumbai than North Mumbai and perhaps even more likely to be in tier 2 cities in India. For them, ubiquitous PC-based Internet remains a distant dream.
[As an aside, I think what will change the balance is the combination of three innovations: network computers, city-wide broadband wireless networks and a business model which makes computing a utility. These are some of the ideas that we are working on in Novatium.]
For the middle of the pyramid, the ability to access the Internet via their mobile phone will open a new world of opportunities. Whether it is making use of lifes empty moments or getting answers in lifes know-now moments, the mobile Internet will become an integral part of their lives in the coming years.
Here is a broader perspective:
To understand the mobile internet opportunity, it is necessary to take a wider perspective. In tomorrows world, all info and services will reside in the cloud. Users will connect to this cloud via two possible devices a mobile phone [or laptop computer] which they carry with them all the time, and a desktop computer with a bigger screen and better input capabilities. Both will be connected devices and in that sense, thin clients to the thick servers that reside in the cloud with near-infinite computing and storage capabilities. Connectivity can be via DSL or cable in the wired world, or via WiFi, WiMax or mobile operator data networks (2.5G and higher).
The essential difference from the PC-centric developed world users is that this user base assumes the presence of the network and is therefore comfortable with keeping the information in the cloud, knowing that access to it will be available anytime and from anywhere. In the PC-centric world, there is still a legacy of local applications and storage which fragment a users information and life. This lack of legacy is what can be used to advantage by service providers in the emerging markets. The goal should be to create network-centric services which are accessible from both the mobile and the PC but primarily focused around the mobile. The mantra needs to be Mobiles First.
Tomorrow: Incremental Web
Best of Tech Talk 2006+T