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May 09 2011

The Hindu- Only smart firms will ride the next smartphone wave


- Freddie Laker

Freddie Laker


If smartphones are not in the hands of your customers just yet, they soon will be. In an increasingly digitized world, only those small businesses that capitalise on the smartphone revolution can gain significant competitive advantage.

It is no secret that over the past years, India has undergone a mobile phone revolution.

With over 771 million mobile lines in service, India now boasts of being the second largest telecommunication network in the world after China. Simultaneously, Internet usage has surged, although at a slower pace. Today, there are over 50 million active monthly Internet users on both PCs and phones. Yet, consumers in India have historically avoided mobile Internet usage due to the devices' limitations, such as slow speed and an overall poor user experience.

As telecom companies introduce their next generation 3G mobile networks, which are to be fully rolled out by 2012, one can imagine the immense potential of the Indian market in the area of digital user experience.

A second revolution


Indeed, a second telecom revolution is knocking at the door, as India's telecom providers drive consumers towards the new trend of inexpensive smartphones. According to IMRB International and the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the total number of mobile Internet users the country in 2010 was 12.1 million.

In 2011, the number is expected to reach 30 million. Furthermore, a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2015, the total number of mobile Internet users in India will grow to 237 million.

This, undoubtedly, implies exciting times for the entire telecommunications industry, while at the same time presenting a unique opportunity for those businesses that will be able to offer rich mobile content. Whether it is through games or useful applications – ‘apps', the craving of mobile Internet users for great experiences on their new smartphones must be satisfied.

Untapped consumers


For many Indian consumers in the cities and rural areas alike, smartphones will serve as PCs, opening the floodgates to companies interested in reaching previously untapped consumers across the country with compelling digital experiences.

Consumers, who have been geographically limited to retailers in their local area, will now have full access to online commerce sites. This provides a unique space on the market for Indian SMEs, which can outrun global players by developing e-commerce sites specially designed for mobile devices, since traditionally e-commerce sites developed by large market players were not tailored to mobile platforms.

In addition, consumers will have full access to ‘apps', the latest trend in mobile technologies, that will allow businesses to provide experiences that move well beyond the capability of the mobile browser.

Whether these will be downloadable for free and designed to drive company awareness, or for sale as an additional revenue source for the business, ‘apps' will offer businesses a permanent foothold on consumers' devices. In a recent report, Gartner forecasts that global sales of apps for the iPad, iPhone and other portable mobile phones and devices will exceed $15 billion in 2011. It also predicts that this year, 17.7 billion apps will be downloaded, the revenue from which will exceed the mobile app revenue generated in 2010 by 190%.

Although digital technologies are yet to conquer the Indian market, the country is already on its way to the digital future. Smartphones will bring rich digital experiences to the masses, which they will not only desire but will come to expect — and entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of such platforms will reap the benefits.


(Author is Director, Digital Strategy – Asia, SapientNitro)

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