Mobile as a device for Internet has already proven its ranks with the popularity of GPRS embedded phones in India. But till now, the usage pattern hasn’t gone to the next level in terms of social networking. Experts believe that the medium has a lot of promise as users prefer to connect with their friends on the mobile phone and derive benefits out of the mobility factor.
However, the issue that needs to be addressed is the sustainability aspect of this concept, given the current state of infrastructure, the network and the bandwidth, which are far inadequate and low compared to the international standards.
Industry players believe that until these changes happened in India, social networking on mobile was not likely to catch on in a big way as it had in the US and other European countries.
Rajnish, Head of Sales and Marketing, MSN India, said, “Social networking on mobile is a trend which very popular internationally. But in India it is confined among only those who have access to high-end mobile phones, which are compatible to allow high-speed Internet browsing and social networking. But with mobile phone prices coming down, and the availability of value added services like cameras, MMS, GPRS/EDGE facilities, there will definitely be a surge in the number of people who would then socially interact via mobile phones.”
Literacy is yet another problem, and despite the reasonable penetration of high-end mobile phones in India, industry experts say that most of the users are not well-informed on how to use the services available on the mobile phones. That is where user-friendly applications make a lot of difference.
Rehan Khan, Managing Director, Yo4ya.com, said that that simplicity of user-interfaces was the key to driving more users on mobile. “I certainly think social networking would happen on mobile phones in a big way, but it will take some time to catch on in India. When is a difficult question to address. It depends on the simplicity of user interface,” he added.
According to Navin Mittal, Head, Fropper.com, the current charges levied by the operators for the use of Internet on mobile phones were on a higher side, and it had to be reduced, considering affordability aspects of Indian consumers. Mittal further explained, “The entire concept of social networking on mobile phones has to be unique in its own way. Websites should try and design their sites in such a manner that it matches the small screen size of the mobile phone.”
Pratyush Prasanna, Senior Product Manager, Webaroo.com, pointed out that technology on mobile phones in India was fast growing, and the only way forward for industry players to expand their reach in the market was to go the mobile way, taking the convenience and user-friendly aspects into consideration.
Currently there are websites like Smsjunction.com, Dodgeball.com, Juicecaster.com, Jumbuck.com, Rocketalk.com, Smsgupshup.com and others that enable multiple text messages from the web to mobile, from mobile to web, and from mobile to mobile via the server connected to the website. Most of these are international websites that offer free subscription and bank on advertising for revenue generation. Some Indian websites like the Smsgupshup.com are using SMS as a tool for social networking.
With around 200 million mobile phone users in India, and the digital marketing space poised to be worth Rs 1,000 crore by 2010, there is no doubt about the potential of this concept to catch on big time in India. Once the current deterrents are removed with innovative solutions, we should see a change in the way the country socially interacts today.