The first day of the Digital Summit 2006, being held in Mumbai, primarily concentrated on topics such as Internet on mobile and e-commerce.
The keynote address, ‘Role of the Internet in Indian economy- realism and revolution- where we are at and where we are going’, had Minister of Communications and IT Dayanidhi Maran, Neville Taraporewalla, Director and Country Manager, Yahoo! India, and Shashi Kalathil, President-Broadband and Retail Business, VSNL, as speakers.
According to Taraporewalla, convergence between mobile and the Internet was good news for everyone. However, security was a concern for those wanting to transact over the Internet.
Maran said that content played an extremely crucial role and it was important for websites to be translated into local languages at the click of a button. He further said that though Indians were still more comfortable with dial-up rather than always-on Internet, this was gradually changing.
Travel forms a chunk of e-commerce and for Internet banking to gain more acceptance, banking laws should be more stringent and should encourage a feeling of security amongst consumers. Maran added that Mumbai and Chennai would have cable TV through telephone lines in the future and rural kiosks would also be very popular.
Session One saw a discussion on ‘The potential of Internet access through mobile phones’. This session had Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO, Hungamamobile.com as the moderator, while the speakers included Rajesh Sawhney, President, Reliance Entertainment; Arun Gupta, CEO and co-founder, Onmobile Asia Pacific Pvt Ltd; Ravishankar, Country Head, Direct Banking, Yes Bank Pvt Ltd; and Mohit Bhatnagar, VP-New Products Development and Strategic Alliances, Airtel.
The market for accessing Internet via mobile is largely untapped. Though wireless broadband solutions can provide high-speed Internet while on the move, the challenge for the future is having business models that will prove successful over a period of time and content that attracts and encourages more customers to access the Internet through their mobile phones.
According to Sawhney, key domains of digital entertainment were broadband and key content drivers for entertainment such as movies and music, sex and gambling (that is illegal) and sports, and gaming.
Onmobile’s Gupta felt that though GPRS enabled and GPRS compatible mobile phones were on the rise, it was still not very easy to use Internet on mobile phones. He, however, said that Wimax and wireless was slowly but steadily gaining popularity.
Rao said that speech interface was far easier than using text interface and this was what would drive more people to use the Internet on their mobile phones. Onmobile offers value added services for telecom that not only helps consumers but also operators. According to Rao, music, entertainment, e-ticketing, bill payments, contests, and classifieds were some value added services that were key drivers of using Internet on mobiles today.
Bhatnagar said that factors like telecom forming 2.5 per cent of India’s total GDP, mobile phones exceeding fixed lines and subscribers on the rise made this one of the fastest growing sectors. However, service providers should not get lost in the numbers and realise the importance of scaling up and build for the future.
While simple services such as astrology and cricket scores were in demand, now each user wants to have personalised services that cater to individual needs. Regional language based services is also on the rise with people from B and C class cities accessing the Internet.
Bhatnagar added that in the future, corporate and small and mid-size businesses would take Internet on mobile more seriously, and text and voice would move to richer multimedia experiences.
Session II was about ‘ Navigating growth- the business opportunities of broadband’. Moderator for this session was Ajit Balakrishnan, MD and CEO, Rediff.com. With 38.5 million Indians online and the number of connected users set to touch 300 million by 2007-08, the challenge will be to cater to diverse usability needs. Consumers will adapt to sophisticated services online and the demand is expected o increase with broadband networks connecting businesses and consumers.
Lav Gupta, DDG Broadband, BSNL talked about some points from an operator’s point, as voice profit for is shrinking, new long-term revenue streams are required. Amitabh Pandey, Group General Manager (IT services), IRCTC, said, “E-commerce is kicking. It is real and it is profitable.” He further said that the Internet as a means of commerce was gaining acceptance and for it to develop further, better connectivity and broadband was very important.
Sunil Buch, Head of Marketing, Reliance Web World, said, “We believe that broadband is the future and is here to stay.” He added that besides gaming, broadband could also support serious aspects such as distant learning in a more effective manner.
According to Sanjeev Bikchandani, CEO, Naukri.com, until people really used, played and experinced new technology, they would not really understand its true potential. Thus, engaging with technology was important. He further said that factors such as compelling content, local language websites, keyboards, software, and portals would drive Indian Internet to world scale.
Sanjay Trehan, Head-Broadband, Times Internet Ltd, pointed out a startling fact – should 256 kbps in India really be considered broadband when in Korea broadband meant a speed of 10 mbps, in Japan it was 100 mbps, and in Sweden, broadband was 1 gbps.
Madhivanan B, GM, retail assets products group, ICICI Bank, said that to make Internet banking more popular, it was important that consumers felt secure and were convinced of transacting through the Internet.
Anupam Mittal, Chairman and CEO, People Interactive (I) Pvt Ltd, said that entertainment should not only be about Hindi cinema but other Indo-centric content would have to come up. He added that driving broadband further would require everyone to go back to fundamentals rather than apply technology for technology’s sake.