India Mobile Space

India Knowledge@Wharton has a good overview with an analysis of the Vodafone-Hutch deal:

The growth numbers explain most of the market’s fervor. India’s cell phone user population doubled during the past year to 150 million at the end of 2006. More than 6 million new subscribers are signing up for mobile services each month, making India the world’s fastest growing mobile market. Cell phones are not just a way to keep in touch with loved ones in a country that loves to talk, but in a booming economy they also become workstations for millions in India’s unorganized sectors. Vodafone’s India-born CEO Arun Sarin said in a speech in Barcelona recently that he expects the 150 million subscriber base — which represents a penetration rate of just 13% — to grow to 500 million in a few years. Much of this growth is expected to come from more than 600,000 villages where millions of Indians live. “We are really excited to move into the rural areas,” Sarin said in his speech. “Whenever we get into these rural areas, we find people love to talk. They light up our base stations immediately.”

Ravi Bapna, professor of information systems at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, notes that Google’s co-founder and president Larry Page has said he wants cell phones to be free. Low-cost phones like Motorola’s MotoFone F3 will allow for “m-commerce” capabilities to emerge in the industry, including banking, insurance and other financial services. “What I see on the horizon is more localized search with phones that connect to GPS (satellite-based global positioning systems), so they [the service providers] know your location,” he says. “Google will tie in these things; if you type in an SMS saying you are looking for a restaurant in Brigade Road (in Bangalore’s main shopping district), it will send you the information, and maybe also give you a restaurant coupon.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.