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October 22, 2006

Rajesh Jain interview in K@W: The future of the Indian Internet is mobile

Extracts from Rajesh Jain (of Indiaworld fame)'s interview to Knowledge@Wharton:

Extracts from Jain's interview to Knowledge@Wharton.
For me, three words help define the mobile Internet. They are: now, near and new. "Now" is about what is happening right now in real time. Wherever I am, I can find the latest cricket scores or the top news stories because my mobile phone is always with me. "Near" is about location -- it can be as small as a neighborhood or it could be a city. If I'm about to take a flight this evening, could I get an alert on my mobile phone if the flight is delayed? Some of this is starting to happen, but it needs to happen a lot more. It could make a real difference to people's lives. Finally, "new" is about new stuff in which I might be interested. Just as a search engine like Google is a good way to find material that has been published in the past, the mobile phone is a great way to keep in touch with future or incremental content. If there is a sale, it should be possible for my book store to send me an alert and suggest business books that I might find interesting.

...The telecom companies and mobile operators need to start looking at value-added services. Average revenues per user are falling even though the customer base is growing dramatically, and there is enough room for growth. The user base of 100 million today will probably grow to 250 million in the next couple of years. What is important now is that operators should start thinking about creating an ecosystem that allows content providers and software companies to thrive in this environment. That is what NTT DoCoMo did in Japan with its i-Mode service -- it built out the ecosystem.

Operators are in a strong position. They have a virtual monopoly and they can control what users of their services can access through data connectivity. What they should realize is that by opening up and by enabling innovative services to come up, the usage of these services and therefore their revenues will increase. Here, again, studying the i-Mode example could be productive. The challenge for operators is that today 85% to 90% of their revenues still come primarily from voice services. They are primarily focused on customer acquisition right now. They see the user base growing to 250 million in a few years, and they are trying to figure out how to capture 25% of that market. As a result, though a lot of new services are coming up, not much attention is being paid to that. This whole ecosystem approach is what is missing in India.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder of Venture Intelligence, which tracks private equity and venture capital in India and Indian-founded companies worldwide. View sample issues of Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.