Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is not a new idea. In its avatar as application service providers (ASPs), it has been around for more than five years. Just like the previous three ideas the Internet, the mobile Internet and network computing. Just because it is an old idea that may not have worked in the past does not in any way mean that it will not work in the future. The timing has to be right. Think of Search in the Internet next it rose and fell in importance from 1995 to 1999, until Google got it right back. Today, search is the primary revenue driver on the consumer Internet.
SaaS is about making software applications available over the Internet. All software and data is centrally stored. Users need to just connect over a browser to use these applications. In the past couple years, Ajax and Flash have helped make for rich Internet applications which provide almost desktop-like performance. All one has to do it see the consumer applications from Google and other companies to get a feel of the potential.
In India, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been slow to adopt technology. Today, they can no longer afford to be left behind. Business is growing rapidly for this sector as a whole as local demand and exports power their expansion. In this scenario, they have to invest in IT. This is where SaaS can come in.
Salesforce.com has demonstrated the power of SaaS. But the pricing is on the higher side for users in emerging markets in India. The opportunity in India now exists to create the local equivalent of Salesforce.com. Until now, broadband connectivity to SMEs was a challenge, but that is now going away. It is now possible to get reasonably priced access from multiple telecom providers.
In India, SaaS will have to be integrated with mobile phones from day one. This is because business users are already likely to have data-enabled mobile phones. This tight integration along with the use of Web 2.0 technologies can help Indian SaaS providers build the next-generation of applications with a possibility of taking these out to markets outside India also.
In fact, SaaS in India will not be limited to just the enterprise applications. It will also extend to collaboration. It is possible to imagine that in SMEs, the only need within the organization will be for a thin client with a browser. Everything will be the server and integrated with the mobile phone. We are not yet there, but 2007 will see the first steps in this direction.
Tomorrow: Local Content
TECH TALK 2007 Tech Trends+T