‘Tech-telecom relationships will neither be friend nor enemy, but frenemy’

Sandeep Goyal, Founder, Mogae Media and Chairman of Forum for Ethical Use of Data on how the coming together of Technology-Media-Telecom will play out

e4m by Dipali Banka
Updated: Jun 26, 2020 7:01 PM
Sandeep Goyal

Collaborations between tech and telecom will become a lot more important going forward and TV and OTT platforms will join some of these alliances as content partners or distribution partners.

Sandeep Goyal, Founder, Mogae Media and Chairman of the Forum for Ethical Use of Data (FEUD) discusses how the coming together of Technology-Media-Telecom will play out.

 Excerpts:

 What is your view of the Big Tech companies acquiring stake in Indian telecom majors? How do you think it will change the Media & Entertainment landscape in India?

It is all the quest for The Next Billion. India is the most fertile, commercially productive and consumer-ready market in the world for the Western world’s Big Technology behemoths. China has all but shut out all Western brands in this digital domain. They have incubated, ideated and birthed companies in the ‘hi-touch consumer digital’ area that are larger, at times more versatile and even more tech-savvy than the FANG companies. Japan as a market is insular, and Japanese consumers are very inert. So Japan has its own ecosystem in Digital with large home-spun players, very strong in the local language and steeped in local culture. So, tough market to crack for the Silicon Valley gang. European markets are saturated, and also getting older. Africa has problems still with broadband penetration. Also South America. So that leaves India as an even more desirable destination to invest in, and grow.

 For India, the implications are profound. These big companies will help pave the way for a more digitally connected India. And ‘connected’ doesn’t mean broadband only but a seamlessly connected digital footprint for most users… between social media, e-commerce, payments, communication, even education and governance. One customer-one-relationship-one click. The marriage between Big Tech and the dumb-pipe of the telco means imbuing the dumb with intelligence.

 The Big Techs have become content companies and telecoms control the distribution pie. How will these mergers impact TV and other digital platforms?

In today’s day and age, there are no real competitors, actually more collaborators, co-creators and co-sharers. TV and OTT platforms will join some of these alliances as content partners or as distribution partners. The accent in the future will not be on bettering deliveries, but on multiplying deliveries. That is what will make collaboration so important. Future relationships will therefore be neither friend, nor enemy, but ‘frenemy’. The landscape is still work-in-progress, and evolving.

 The huge data mine that the telecoms have will be accessed by the Big Tech, on merging. What advantage, scale and new avenues is it likely to bring up going forward?

For Big Tech, the customer database of telcos is nothing short of a goldmine. It makes addressability, the biggest hurdle in digital, surmountable, which is why these marriages have been consummated. Each telco brings in precision data on 300 million subscribers with 400 active data points. I have done this business for a decade, so I know.

For the customer, there is both the joy of a better product; but also the fear of a severe loss of privacy. Data laws in India are still in the nascent stages. The Government’s responses have been jerky, and not always pre-emptive or preventive. Which is where I have voiced big fears. Big Tech is big but it also doesn’t have a very clean track record on ethics. They are well known to be prone to bending the law. And if laws don’t exist, then there is nothing to break! You can have a field day. Hence, the dangers.

 Will these mergers create more walled gardens or will the factor of net neutrality come back?

This is no longer the net neutrality battle. It is the identity battle. How much of their customer identity will the telcos reveal? Anonymisation of data is all humbug. Telco customers need to be asked to do an explicit opt-in, not have a default opt-out with relation to any and all current and future products of both entities in these marriages. Telcos should not even be allowed to share ad ids of customers, let alone details of past usage of financial products by customers. Data is the only raison d’etre for these marriages and mergers.

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