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Book Review : The Mouse Charmers

Published December 23, 2014 by vishalvkale



The Mouse Charmers : Digital Pioneers of India  

by Anuradha Goyal


Anuradha Goyal has a Master’s Degree in Computer Applications with practical work experience in the IT industry for several years; she has subsequently moved on; She has co-authored the India Innovates series published by CII, and was a Jury Member for the Economic Times Power Of Ideas Contest 2010. Her papers on Business Innovation have appeared in various journals and forums


The digital industry is a nascent industry, with a long way to go, as I have myself noted in my previous articles; the road is long, and we are at the very beginning. We have no idea what works, and what doesnt; essentially we are learning as we go along, making processes, dreaming ideas, charting strategies, monitoring tactical execution as we go along. There are no defined roadmaps, and no study material in an organised format; there are no case studies and previous experiences to go by. We ourselves are the case studies of the future…

And this is precisely what Anuradha has done in what I can only refer to as a landmark in this industry; a first book of what can be called case studies of digital entrepreneurs of India. That there will be others, is beyond question. But this work will be the one that was the first, the one that was to set the ball rolling… and full marks to the author for this!

The focus of the book is to lay before the readers a set of Indian Entrepreneurs who made brands out of their ideas, and became successful in converting an idea into a successful business venture. Given the nascent nature of this industry, the author has further decided not to go too technical on us – whether in terms of technology, or in terms of business jargon and strategies, and has opted to keep it simple. 

The net result of this approach is that the reader gets 12 superb analytical case studies, with a relatively short, precise but very meaningful historical précis of what went wrong, what worked, and how the business got to the current status. In addition to this, you get a basic of the technological platform used, as also the difficulties faced and challenges overcome on a strategic front. In addition to these 12, you have a mention of other businesses that didn’t make it to the 12, but are good enough to have done so. 


The choice of the 12 cases is the hallmark of the book, as they set to define the digital space into 3 clear logical segments : ECommerce, Content Platforms and Connectors. In simple terms, sites that provide trading facilities, content generation platforms that provide reviews, or other digital content; and thirdly connectors – sites that bring users together in the B2B, B2C or C2C space. This approach serves to clearly define the digital space in our minds, and gives a clear view to the reader as well as gives a defined form with clearly demarcated broad market segments to the nascent space in the digital marketplace. 

The book is divided into 3 segments accordingly : ECommerce, Content and Connectors. And, the best part is that there is a concise description of each segment in which the scope and breadth of the segment as well as its emergence and future possibilities find an adequate mention. Again, this serves to clearly define each segment of the market, and gives us a firm and clear idea of the digital marketplace. This is the most important take-away from this book : it will give a firm shape to what was once a shapeless concept, helping to channelise your thoughts and ideas. 

The 12 cases are a wide variety, a kaleidoscope, almost – of India; they are so diverse, that they typify our India! Here you will find the story of names you know very well : Flipkart, Shaadi.com, MakeMyTrip, Zomato, Indiblogger. But you will also be surprised to learn of the success of niche sites, or different sites like  BigBasket, Caratlane, Games2Win, ImagesBazaar, Chai With Lakshmi, Rang De and Commonfloor, in areas that you would not have thought that the digital marketplace can make inroads… like the unique case of a C2C Microfinance firm on a digital platform! This is a book that will set you thinking of the enormous potential of this new medium will double force, which is the second takeaway from the book.

The way the different cases monetised their offerings, making a financial success of things as diverse as selling online to making money from reviews of restaurants is a real tribute, and a study in ideation, logical application of mind, perseverance and sheer chutzpah. This gives the reader a basic insight into what are the requirements for a person who wants to get into this industry. 

But the most important takeaway from the book is the marriage of the online with the offline; the old with the new; and the brick and mortar with the click. In each and every case, the way the offline gels in with and strengthens the online is the most vital learning. Be it the stunning efforts of Team Zomato who collected those hundreds of menus initially, or be it the dedication of Team ImagesBazaar who personally compiled the photographs to start off, every case has an offline presence in terms of hard work, and dedication, or in terms of creating and further leveraging a strategic advantage, like logistics. 

You get to appreciate and understand the stunning level of effort required to create a running business; you get to understand how they went about building it up brick by brick; looking at the strategy, the technology, the market, the customers, the monetisation, the failures, the marketing of the products – be it advertisement or be it the core product, This is a book that covers most aspects of business, creating a complete picture and business case in front of the reader. All in all, rated 5 stars!
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WhatsApped!

Published October 15, 2014 by vishalvkale

THE PROBLEM STATEMENT

The title says it all. WhatsApped! That is exactly what I was, as I noted 1086 messages on my mobile one fine day. I was flabbergasted, and literally stunned, and more than a little irritated. I have seen 100 messages, 200, and even 300 in a day. But 1000 messages? That is much too much, any which way you look at it. There is simply no way I was going to read all 1086 messages, that much was certain. 

Then my mind turned to my own addiction to WhatsApp – and I realised I was part of the problem, not a victim. I was both the problem as well as the victim of overload – not because I was a massive and active contributor to the stream of messages on a daily basis; but because I was an active reader of the jokes and other pointless messages. My participation was usually limited to Politics and news related issues, which make up less than 5% of the daily flow. 

I further asked myself : was I really enjoying those jokes and messages? Answer : Some, I was; some I found gross and in bad taste; and some were downright offensive. Further, I asked myself, was I gaining any information from it? Unequivocally, no, I wasnt. Was I wasting my time? Answer – yes, I was, beyond even a shade of doubt. Was I wasting battery and memory space? Yes, I was. Was I going to read all messages, or do I read all messages? No, I dont. 


SELF ANALYSIS, AND DISADVANTAGES

These are relatively minor aspects & obstacles, and easily overcome by the simple expedient of placing groups or notifications on silent, and ignoring and / or deleting messages by clearing chat history. It takes less than a minute to do it across 7 groups. Simple, childishly so. Memory space can be freed by deleting snaps, videos and images, and turning off auto-download. But in doing so, I am firstly being less than honest with group members. And more importantly, I stand the real risk of missing an important message sent on the group. It has happened, you know. People do tend to forget that important things should be personally followed up individually. 

Then I began thinking – wait a minute. 1000-plus messages! What the heck? We dont talk to each other on the phone, say we are busy; but find the time to send each other a thousand messages, as well as the time and inclination to read them – judging from the conversations that go on? Just think about it : one thousand messages! Now that, I respectfully submit, is information overload – especially considering there is not an iota of information in all that lot. 

Then I remembered the fights that happen on WhatsApp groups, one of which I have been a personal part of. Fights on politics, jokes and any sundry item. Fights which go to the extent of relations souring and people breaking off. And all this over a written communication over a technological marvel that was meant to make things easy for us. 

And that is when the incongruity, the ridiculousness and the outright immaturity of it all hit me hard. Information overload, fights, time wasted – all over something so unimportant as a WhatsApp message. We dont communicate over the phone – but stay glued to the mobile for hours on texting, WhatsApping etc. We get into squabbles over this, we insult, and insult openly – unmindful  of the fact that the whole group is listening in, or reading in. For the record- this isnt about WhatsApp, which is an immensely useful productivity tool, as I cover below. It is about me, and people like me, and how we use this wonderful application. 


WHATSAPP AS A PRODUCTIVITY TOOL

As a utility, and a productivity tool, WhatsApp is a great enhancer and value addition. You can send snaps and images of documents for instant verification and / or feedback before sending hard copies; you can send images of competitive activities in the market, new products; You can share new ideas, plans and developments instantly over the entire team in the twinkling of an eyelid; and so on and so forth. It adds considerable value to the business equation in terms of efficiency added and ease of communication as well  as aiding decision making. 

As an entertainer, it has  great potential – I was a recent part of one such activity, wherein some of us bloggers got together to write a novel for a competition; in that, the power of WhatsApp was a tremendous boost, as each person could read the entire groups’ views and participate as per his or her own convenience and time. We exchanged views, fought, argued, planned – but all of it was for some purpose : the completion of the novel, which can be found here : The 16th Hour. Yet again, WhatsApp proved a valuable tool and productivity enhancer, and much superior to mails and other forms of communication for the activity at hand. 

DECISION TIME!

When I put it all  together : the path was clear. Information overload, fights with friends and/or family, waste of time… it all added up to only one direction. Exit all family  groups; since they are friends and family – they will understand. I dont think being a part of a WhatsApp group defines family, at least. I cant run the risk of spoiling relations just because of a stupid fight on WhatsApp. And whether or not I am on WhatsApp, I will remain family, that is certain. Ditto for friends groups – put on permanent silent, or exit. 

Frankly, when  we get into silly fights with friends and family over status updates, WhatsApp jokes, it is time to take a call. When we get 1000 messages a day, it is time to ask ourselves some hard questions. Especially if some vital and informative messages get lost in the clutter of jokes and pointless messages that clutter up the board. 

People tend to forget- in a normal conversation, the words are lost, and not recorded for posterity. In a normal conversation, passive listeners have the option of moving away from two sparring fighters. In a normal conversation, an insult to another person is heard by only the people in proximity, who tend to intervene or move away. Well, in WhatsApp, the entire fight is in the open, and recorded for all posterity. 

WhatsApp is not meant for this – it is a productivity tool. It is also a tool for fun – but that does not mean cheap fun, or insults, or pokes. It also behooves a person to think before posting – would it hurt anyone in the group? Having seen huge fights {as different from disagreements}, I know that this is not the case. I, too, have been a party to a fight. And lost a relation temporarily. Once is more than enough, thank you very much. 

You dont like it, or it bores you – ignore it, like I find non-veg jokes risque and bad. Or leave the group; but dont insult and/or fight. And on being insulted, rather than respond – shut up, or leave the group; preferably the latter. And please limit those messages; but that latter bit is an individual matter – as I said, I didnt like it – so I quit the groups… having said that, I still cant see the point of getting 1000 messages, and not one person having the time to speak to each other over the phone! But that is me. Perhaps I am a bit old in the big, bold new world that has been WhatsApped, or TechApped! to be more specific… 

I prefer it the good old way…

meaning… “tring, tring… hello?”

Eyes On The Road!

Published June 27, 2014 by vishalvkale

https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/RCZ4sHO-TkU&source=uds

https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/Pwx74ZzLzaI&source=uds

Eyes On The Road… Not On Your Mobile. If Not For Your Sake, Then For The Sake Of Innocent People Around You, Who Pay With Their Lives Due To Your Stupidity And Irresponsibility!

I can approach this post in several ways – I can either quote worldwide statistics of deaths caused by Mobile Phones usage during driving, or I can give scientific reasons behind why using mobile phones during driving is dangerous, irresponsible and downright stupid.

Or I can quote 2 real life cases of people I knew who died due to irresponsible, and from my point of view, criminal idiots who were yacking on the phone when they should have been focusing on the road. 2 families destroyed. At least one child I know who is fatherless. One dead child, one dead parent in another case. They are dead because some irresponsible idiot thought his career, his family, his friend was more important than the lives of people on the road. 

3 lives snuffed out, several hopes dashed, several lives irrevocably destroyed and several families deeply impacted. Just because some idiot thinks his chatting is more important than other people’s lives. Just because some – excuse my language – idiot thinks he or she is more important than the life of others. For such people, so self-centered, or so congenitally stupid; their time is too important to pull the vehicle over to the curb, and attend to the call. 2 minutes of the time of such – excuse me – idiots is more important than the entire lives of some people. 

Those of you who have read me before will be surprised at my anger, and usage of rough words. What else am I supposed to do when one of these 3 deaths is of someone I know, and have known for 43 years – all my living living life so far. Now, whenever I see some genius jabbing on the phone while driving a bike, or driving a car – I can visualise the last moments of that person who was family, as told to me by people. Personally, I do not indulge in such behaviour; thanks be to God; I immediately pull over. What was conveyed to me by people – the other person jabbing on the phone – shall stay with me a very long time. 

Sad part is that despite this being an obvious fact and something that is known and apparent to all, it is ubiquitous on our roads. For the past 4 years at least I have made it a habit to stop people from indulging in this. In the early days of Mobile Phones, I too was guilty of such idiocy, to be perfectly frank; but the various police drives to educate got through to me, as did my own intelligence in equal part. Similarly, while some people – a good majority, to be honest – sheepishly keep the phone aside, or stop the vehicle; a small minority actually swears at me. Boss – I am not trying to save only you; I am trying to save my bloody skin, and those of others on the road. I am trying to save others from your irresponsibility!

Even sadder is the fact that this happens openly, and no action is taken on this in large parts of India. There is a law against this – but is it implemented? We continue to openly flout this law, adhering to it only in front of the cops, and blissfully and daringly flout it when no one is looking. There is no hint of awareness of the serious risk such overgrown kindergarten school kids are exposing the people on the road to. In doing so, we are putting other people at risk; it is fine if you are stuck in traffic in a jam – you can use your phone. It is not so fine when you are driving your bike or car. 

Why does this happen? Why are we as a people unable to confront and accept this simple reality that usage of Mobile Phones on the move is dangerous – both to our own selves, as well as to others. It is our responsibility to our family, to our community and to our nation; we should realise, understand and accept this – and stop using phones while driving. Is it too much to expect a human being to behave rationally? 

Frankly, yes – it is too much to expect that. This realisation came to me while studying a research paper on behavioural economics, which looks at a similar issue in economics – that a man / woman considers many  aspects in life, and the expectation of rationality is bookish. This applies here as well : the absence of rationality. In the humdrum of daily life, rationality takes a back-seat. The immediate concern  – getting to office on time to avoid a confrontation with the boss, or to get to the meeting on time takes precedence. Since accidents are by definition a rarity, their occurrence is never factored into the equation.  

In such a reality, firm strict and decisive action against misuse of Mobile Phones while driving and heavy punitive penalties is the order of the day. Only the fear of the law, and the attendant loss of the driving licence / thousands in cash can act as a strong deterrent. The need of the hour is to increase the penalty from the teensy-weensy 500/1000 to magnitudes of that amount : say, 2500 or even 5000. That should be effective as a deterrent. Add to that the cancellation of the mobile number and confiscation of the phone with all its data and numbers deleted, although a copy in a data device can be handed over, but only through the court. 

This needs to be supported by social media awareness campaigns, hoardings, Television advertisements, Print advertisements – which is currently happening in almost every town of India. But the evidence of the road suggests that these measures are enough, which is why I am calling for stricter measures on the punitive side. People are dying almost daily – due to this irresponsible behaviour on our collective parts. This article is itself an attempt at adding to the fight against this bad habit on social media.

We are talking about lives here; we are talking innocent lives. Take it from me – closure is hard to come by in such cases, even though the person who died was not my father or mother. What will it be like for the immediate family of the deceased? Spare a thought for them! And spare a thought for those countless, nameless and faceless people who have died because someone else was using a mobile phone! 

If you are reading this, and are habitual of using phones on the move – please desist. Your habit can and has caused inconvenience to others. I can understand the pressures of modern life – at one point in time, I too might have been guilty of the same. But in the past 4 years and more, I have not received the calls – but have called back the callers immediately on reaching my destination – or have stopped my vehicle. And I dont recall people objecting on hearing the explanation. If I can convert even one person through this article, my effort will not have been in vain. 

The Pull Of The Mother Tongue – The Impact Of Technology

Published June 19, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the eleventh article in the culture series
Recently, I walked into the Inox Theatre at Kalyan for a movie – Bhatukali {Marathi} starring Ajinkya Deo, Shilpa Pulaskar and Kiran Karmarkar. This experience – the mere unlikely fact of me as a person watching a Marathi film in a theater set of a chain of thoughts, leading to what I feel might be a defining change being wrought by Technology and awakening, alongside the spread of economic growth, a change that is seeping into India
It has been a strange journey for me so far; when I look back today, it is indeed a strange conversion for a totally anglicized man such as myself, a man who was known for linguistic skills in English, a man who loved watching Santa Barbara & The Bold And The Beautiful, Different Strokes, Small Wonder, Yes Prime Minister, Home Alone 1&2, Die Hard, Terminator 1,2&3, Independence Day etc…; a man who loved listening to Michael Jackson & BoneyM
If I look at myself today, I am doing something I would not have believed possible; my list of favourite artists on Nokia Lumia MixRadio lists artists like Swapnil Bandodkar, Mandar Apte, Vaishali Made, Salil Kulkarni, Sonu Nigam, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi! My most watched TV serial is Eka Lagnaa Chi Dusri Goshte in Marathi,  followed by Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai; and the movies I love the most list LOC-Kargil, Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai in Marathi… the conversion seems complete; the turnaround nearly 360-degrees. 

How did this happen? I am not too conversant in pure Marathi – while I am perfectly fluent in my mother tongue – I still run into words that I cannot understand while listening to the music; and yet, the music just grows on me, it has an almost ethereal quality and hypnotic pull for my mind. Even if I cannot understand a word, I can get at the gist by reference to the context; the rest is easily done by the simple expedient of asking a friend the meaning! 

The earliest I can identify the change is through my better half, who watched Marathi TV Serials and Movies. Me, I would avoid them like the plague, ensuring my absence from home even, at times. Then one day, Mee Shivajirao Bhosle Boltoye happened; the plot as my wife described it sounded appealing; net result is I liked the movie. This was followed by an awakening of interest through constant exposure on TV of serials like Asambhav, Uncha Mazhaa Zhokaa and Eka Lagna Chyi Dusri Goshte. The power of the Media, and its increasing reach manifested itself…

The other aspect is my exposure through a totally unlikely medium – Nokia Lumia MixRadio, and Youtube. I would watch Eka Lagnaa Chyi Dusri Goshte  regularly on YouTube; one fine day, I noticed an interesting song on it – Devaa Tujhyaa Gabharyaalaa Umbarach Naahi; clicked on it, loved it – and proceeded to watch several other classic pieces on YouTube on Lumia. I am a regular on Nokia MixRadio, so this time I went to Marathi songs – and discovered a melodious world of lovely songs which were intuitively appealing, and very, very contemporary indeed. 
When I look back – I can spot a clear trend – the impact of Technology, and the rekindling of mother tongue-based serials and movies through the spread of cable television and the proliferation of channels. Suddenly, an entire people – away from their culture, but still very much attuned to it, and “with” it – like my better half – had access to entertainment in their mother tongue. 
These early adopters provided the interest in the people with greater resistance – yes, like me – while the spread of technology through mobiles and reduced data rates, alongside a superb and complete repertoire of endless programming on channels like Nokia Lumia MixRadio and YouTube reduced access barriers and obstacles, rekindling and expanding the love for the mother tongue as the tongue of preference even for entertainment. This is the power, the incredible power of the media. 

The greater availability of channels {means} for contact with the mother tongue- Television, Online Music, Websites has dramatically improved the chances for experimentation – like I did – while simultaneously reducing the access cost for the same. Would I have walked into Inox to watch Bhatukali had I not been exposed to Marathi programming over the past 2 years through Television and Mobile? Very likely not. 

This is going hand-in-hand with the contemporary and modern music and media programming – modern in technology terms, with digital recording and excellent reproduction, alongside digital mastering techniques, and musical implements that make for a lovely and rewarding viewing and listening experience. This, in the case of Marathi, is combined with music that sounds by and large traditional, without excessive western influence {my opinion only – and you all know how much of an expert I am 😉 }

Thus, it is an interesting “battle” for the Indian Mind that is now underway; the same channels that are beaming western influences into our homes are also faithfully beaming traditional themes as well; this is devoid of fundamentalism in any way, as the traditional programming is based on music, or TV Soaps, or other such benign programming. And, judging from my personal experience, it is no way certain that western values or language shall overrun us; as a backlash has been created by a back-to-my-culture sequence, fuelled not by fundamentalist anti-west rhetoric, but by an interest in and a craving for the culture. 

It is still early days – but technology is working its wonderful way in more ways than one… doing its bit in  creating a better integrated and more modern India in areas spanning right from the critical Meteorology to the daily routine of Culture, an India that already has come to terms with its diversity, an India that has learnt to use its internal forces to modulate its diverse population and culture!

Internet and Digital Media- 2: Big Hurdles

Published February 9, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the second part of the article Online And Digital Media
Part of the credit for this article goes to Team Blogadda, who had a superb programme on Social Media, including sessions with industry experts like Anagh Desai and Lakshmipathy Bhat. The interaction during the entire event of Blogadda Awards {WIN14}, especially with the mentioned experts, enabled me to connect the dots in my mind, and cement my ideas into a firm shape. A part of the credit also has to go to Mr Vivek Sapru, my Senior during my tenure at Amity University as a visiting faculty, my discussions with whom also helped me see some direction
As I noted in the conclusion  of my previous article, this medium has the potential to reach into the gut of existing business models, and rip them apart from within. The other alternative is that this medium has the potential to cause a steady with definite change in existing business models, and change the face of business as we know it today. However – and this is a significant however – there still exist major hurdles in the path, which is rocky and stony beyond the ordinary, a reflection of a reality that is not often quoted in any business analysis I have read till date. To place things in some perspective, and to avoid unfounded exuberance (thereby lending a sense of reality to the analysis), I have taken up the biggest hurdles first, taking up the potential later on in the series
BIG HURDLES
The first and immediate hurdle is, quite simply, data costs. Any product, any service, any Brand on the net has to be accessed – and that can only be through a Data Connection. And any system is only as good as its slowest / weakest component. Surfing the internet and downloading data costs money – and as current things stand, a massive amount of money. It costs anywhere between 175 – 250 Rs per GB on most Service Providers. I myself have a 4GB connection that sets me back by 750 plus taxes – by no means a small amount. Two critical questions arise from this reality – first, what is the size of the Addressable Market Segment; and what is the kind of volume of data consumed by the most demanding application – say, Videos. This second leads to another question – is the current level of 3G / 3.5G coverage sufficient to support this? Furthermore, what are the actual realised speeds generated during surfing? 
Let us take the second question first. One of the major identified segments is Video Downloads of all types. Even here, the things are murky – video downloads are in the top-3 only on desktops; mobiles account for emails, social media and communication. This is further confirmed by the low data ARPUs. Let us take a look at the numbers – which just dont add up, any which way you look at it. A 22-28 minute HD video is about 275 – 375 MB of data; a full feature length video of 2 hours plus equals around 2GB – 3GB of data. I have downloaded Sarabhai vs Sarabhai episodes, Tu Tu Main Main, Dekh Bhai Dekh, Satyamev Jayate, Political Interviews as well as several films on my connection – Don-2, Samay, Aan, and LOC Kargil among others – like The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far etc. 
Even if you look at streaming data, the picture is no better. I am operating a 12GB data limit connection; the most I was able to get out of it is around an hour  {or a little more} of video streaming on average per day on youtube {Not HQ}, NDTV watch and similar sites. The cost was a humongous 1599 plus taxes per month for data alone. Now this data consumption is massive, given that I only have a  few GB space to operate in – meaning, files of 2GB are out of the question – which is why I still have to download Lagaan, which is 2848MB in size, and Dec 16, which is also around 2800MB in size. I can theoretically download only a few episodes of a length of say, 25 minutes per month. That is frankly, peanuts – and by no stretch of imagination can be extrapolated into an addressable market segment. For it to be a viable market segment, it would have to have volume and mass. Does it? This is a question that can only be answered by looking at some hard data, which is the subject of the next article, so please bear with me. Moving onto other market segments also gets us nowhere as of now, for the issues listed below, as well as usage and penetration realities. 
There are other critical operations issues at hand – which I shall, for the moment, ignore – given that this is a nascent industry. For example, the difficult interface you have to negotiate in finding the exact right video, especially on a handset : I have tried this on Lumia 720 as well as Karbon A9, finally going back to my trusty laptop due to coverage issues – to be taken up later; as also the issue of mobile battery life when using a 3G connection. Then there is the entire question of paid revenues, which is a topic unto itself; namely, how do you monetise and build a paid model of data consumption as a Brand, given the online Credit Card and Debit Card usage is in a distinct minority of the 1.27 Billion Population.
When we talk of Mobile Data, the first question that should be – but isnt – asked is, what is the kind of data coverage and actual delivered speeds that are prevalent? The answer to this is a very disturbing one – very disturbing indeed. Even in a city like Mumbai, I have experienced serious issues in coverage from not one, but 4 operators. What do you think it must be like in the other cities? The data connection @ 3.5G frequently falters even when the mobile is kept at a stationary location – to say nothing of coverage while on the move. The experience is somewhat along similar lines even in the other cities that I have had occasion to visit. Coming to speeds, I am yet to get the maximum advertised speed on the internet. Right now, speedtest tells me I am getting 3.22 mbps download speed and 1.20 upload speed; and this is among the fastest speeds I have experienced. The actual speeds range from 1.20 mbps and go upto 5.8 mbps, depending upon the Service Provider. Yet again, when you put the two (coverage and speed together) the numbers just dont add up – as movies take upwards of an hour, at times several hours to download – while serials and short videos take 30 minutes upto  an hour or more to download.  You cant keep stationary for that long during an average day… which means download at night – further limiting the market. Not only that, coverage also tends to falter… and with 2G, sites either wont load, or take one hell of a long time. 
The next question that should be asked is, just what is the penetration of 3G handsets in the market – not smartphones. Smartphones are frankly irrelevant to the data consumption market; the real question is, and will remain – what is the penetration of 3G handsets in India? And, from this sub-group, how many can afford a premium data plan – which is the only plan that can offer video downloads and high data consumption. There are around 143 Million users of internet on handsets – both GPRS and 3G, as well as Desktop and Laptop combined. 
That is the universe as on date – a figure on which we currently have zero demographic or income data. 23.8 Million users access the internet on their mobile as on date. As can be seen, yet again – the data does not add up. At a growth rate of 30% – we still have only 62 Million consumers of mobile data in 5 years – and this is GPRS and 3G combined, mind you. It will take a scorching growth rate of 60% five years in a row to reach a decent figure of 155 Million Users! The current growth rate, as per some expectations, is between 30-40%. Further, India, as a total added 40,000 Broadband users in May 2013. How many months will it take to add up to a significant number that can support the plethora of players in the market? Yet again, the numbers dont add up! 
Now assume that all these are 3G handsets. To try and balance (since 3G handsets penetration is likely to be 20-30% at the maximum level), let us assume a monthly billing of 200 Rupees. That gives a market size of 1254 Crores in 5 years time at a growth rate of 30%, and 1828 Crores at a growth rate of 40%. To put things in perspective, it has taken an expense of 67000 Crores into this market, and an expected growth rate of 30-40%. To make matters even more interesting, the data ARPU in June 2013 was 56 Rs. To round off, the total ARPU of Delhi circle was 182.33 on an average; and Mumbai was 192.82 on an average in Q3 2013, the latest period for which the numbers are available. The numbers just dont add up; not enough to justify the immediate euphoria. 
Are we then to assume that these are insurmountable hurdles? That this is just a bubble? How many Indians can actually afford a 500 – 1000 expense on data alone? How many Indians actually realise the value of a data connection? If they did, why is churn such a big issue in telecom? Why are people frequently switching providers, and even disconnecting them? Do you actually get seamless conectivity  on 3G? Does your battery play out the day? Why is wired Broadband slowing in terms of sales, in a market where supposedly there is loads of current opportunity? Where is the market? Who comprises the market? Where will the monetisation come from – any industry dependent only on advertising revenues cannot be sustainable; there has to be monetisation. 

But then how do you explain the scorching growth rate experienced in the market? How do you explain the applications that are being developed, and are increasingly in vogue? How do you explain the undeniable truth that internet and cloud based applications are adding value in countless homes and businesses across the length and breadth of India? How do you explain the pressure of the internet that is being experienced in markets as diverse as Consumer Durables to Handsets to Books? What about the various e-commerce sites, services and brands, some of whom might also be making money? Questions, too many questions… and too few answers. 

References : 
COAI Website

Mob App: Alive – From The Times Of India

Published January 7, 2013 by vishalvkale

For once, a technology innovation from The Times Of India that has the potential to catch the market; an application for Mobile Devices that holds tremendous promise…
Alive – From The Times Of India
Alive is, in simple terms, a mobile app that allows you to scan a logo (Alive Logo) on any image on the newspaper into your Android, or BB or iOS device… and presto! You are auto-connected to Youtube, which opens the relevant video for you. A simple – a very simple thought, but so tremendous in the possibilities it opens up. It takes newspaper reading to an entirely new high;
  • You see a news on a political bigwig on which you would like to actually hear what the person said for yourself – just scan the image – and you are taken directly to his interview. 
  • Or, you would like to see for yourself just how terrible is the snowfall that has covered Kashmir… scan the image, and see for yourself on youtube video! 
  • Or, Sachin has scored a century (he will, he will – he isnt finished yet: not by a long shot): you missed it. Just scan the image on the newspaper  – and lo and behold! watch a 3-minute clip of highlights of his shots
  • Or, The Governor of the RBI has given the Economic Times (or any newspaper once other newspapers launch this service- or something like this) and interview. You want more details… go ahead. Scan, and listen directly!
The possibilities are literally endless. You can embed detailed analysis, facts and figures and upload them on the site; a simple scan, and readers are taken directly to a more fact-filled, multimedia interface. It makes for a much richer, more fulfilling and more meaningful connect with the morning newspaper. You can embed a 5-minute discussion of top cricketers analysing India’s performance – just click, and you are done! You can watch clips of specific highlights again;  there is quite literally no end to the innovative uses this promising technology can be put to. 
The more one thinks about the range of applications, the more exciting it becomes. This convergence, applied to magazines – adds a far more powerful dimension; given that Magazines are by nature more in-depth and exhaustive; the addition of a multimedia interface  raised exciting possibilities. Not only that, in an era of online readership – it gives a powerful fighting tool to the print media which can now provide greater value, and hold its own. This, combined with the more comfortable interface of a print medium, raises a set of interesting possibilities.

Yes, there are issues and caveats: content will have to be created. It will have to be uploaded, databases maintained, a seamless interface needs to be ensured; as usage increases and pressure on the systems goes up, attention will have to be given to ensure 6-sigma levels of uptime; costs will have to be factored in; customer trends as to what kind of video usage is in vogue will need to be tracked. But none of these are issues; they are more of challenges – and can be easily overcome.

It also offers a shot in the arm for the telecom trade over the long term; as data will be used; the increase in data traffic will be good news for the Telecom trade. It also indicates a further step in the inexorable process of convergence that is becoming increasingly evident, as across industries, completely diffierent and unconnected fields come together to generate additional value. This is a process that augurs well for trade as a whole
On the consumer side, it gives additional value, while giving the Print Media a tool to fight the increasing penchant of online usage and readership. It is a tool that has the potential of increasing the perceived value of the Newspaper as something more than just reams of paper; a consumer does not have to watch endless news articles to get to the topic which interests him/her. Furthermore, it gives additional value as it can include written analysis as well as video and mutlimedia tools…
But all that is still some time away. That requires content, a marketable niche, and users. For now, there are going to be videos of inerviews, news clips etc – which is also great. It is going to be interesting to see if this technology interface catches on. There is no reason it should not; given the increasing shift towards smartphones, the falling rates of data and the increasing interest of consumers in trrying out new technologies…
Alive can be downloaded from the App Market; it is available for free for Andriod version 2.2 and above; iOS version 4.3 and above; BB version 5.0 and above; and Symbian version S60 and above. You can also get it by giving a missed call to 18001023324. I used it both over a 2.5G  and 3G network, and there are no issues or lag. The experience is new, great and – to coin a colloquial word – fundoo. I found it quite invigorating. And yes – you will  need the Times Of India – at least until others find a way to offer similar services…

We Chat App: Power-packed beauty

Published October 30, 2012 by vishalvkale

The wesbsite says “Wechat: The New Way To Connect – Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone; Chat any way you want, Voice Video and Text for free! Connect with friends across platforms“. Cant describe it better myself. WeChat is the latest in the line of mobile internet messengers; but it comes with a whole list of differentiators that mark it out as different. In the modern hypercompetitive market, it is critical that any product have significant differentiating features, which WeChat is simply loaded with.

First off, it is available for :

  • Android
  • Symbian
  • iOS
  • Windows

The download is fast, and the launch is pretty straightforward and easy. You have the option of synchronising with Facebook as well as with your mobile phone contacts. The chat experience is fast, and trouble free. However, I use a 3G connection, so don’t know how well it works on a 2.5G or a 2G network.

The part I liked best is its simple interface. You dont require any held of any kind whatsoever in either the installation, or the operation. The menu has been superbly designed and is easy to understand. As I said, connect with Facebook to include your facebook friends; connect with your mobile number to include your friends and connections through their mobiles. 
The big question that should come to mind is why should you use this app? The biggest, most important add-on liked is the in-built voice chatting facility. Especially the Hold-To-Talk (almost like a walky-talkie) – just press the Hold-To-Talk Key (Present on the screen) :
 
record your message,,, and release the button to send! A simply, brilliant functionality that places it in a different league entirely. To me, this is the most important function offered by this application. 
Then you also have the full range of other functions, like group chat, adding contacts by a custom QR code, Looking around – wherein you can find wechat-enabled users located  located near where are, as the app uses location determining servies. One nice touch is that this is not by default; you have to physically turn the location services on. Then you also have the feature “Moments” wherein you can upload a picture from your phone and share it with your chat group, or special person. You can also send a broadcast message, a message to several people at once. 
I have deliberately not included technical or firm/company details. The objective is to give the reader a user’s perspective. The main problem with this app is the lack of an ecosystem; not one of  my facebook friends or mobile contacts is on this platform. This is a major challange that will have to be overcome – and let us hope that the company’s initiatives in the blogosphere as well as other measures will build momentum in the downloads of the application.
The three most powerful features to my mind are:
  • Hold-To-Talk voice messaging
  • Moments
  • Simplicity of speed

This is the perspective of an avid google talker!

All in all, a great new application that now requires the strength of numbers….

This review is a part of the Product Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. For free download of WeChat App and more details visit http://www.wechatapp.com.

link back to the Product Reviews program at BlogAdda and WeChat.