Couple of weeks back, I attended the Mobile Entrepreneurship Forum organised by Techcircle in New Delhi. The event was an intimate format comprising about 100 odd attendees across mobile device, apps, platform owners, VCs and other members of the mobile ecosystem.

I was generally curious if there was any pioneering work being undertaken and the general outlook from the perspective of those players who are closely engaged in the space on a day-on-day basis.

I was collating some of the notes I had made at the event and thought of sharing these in case you may find some parts of value too:

  • Key stats I picked
    • Percentage of users consuming internet on mobile – 60%
    • Smartphone users in urban India – 27 million
    • Nearly 50% of all mobile internet traffic is video
    • Check out CISCO report on mobile internet and video
  • Pc vs. Mobile
    • Mobile users have higher ability to pay than internet users. This is because the Consumers of PC Internet got used to the idea of free. On the other hand, mobile user unexposed to concept of ‘free’ services has higher willingness to pay
    • PC –is based on advertising revenue versus mobile which is  based on revenue economy
  • Current challenges
    • Distribution or cost of acquiring customers is high
    • Marginalisation of revenue by operators (high dependence on operators)
    • Data charges for mobile have been higher
    • Only 7% phones in India are smartphones
    • Multiple operating systems make it difficult for app makers to make apps
    • Content acquisition
  • Insights for a mobile entrepreneur
    • Building your own brand is important so as to kill dependence on operators, otherwise you are a service provider/BPO making it risky and volatile. You have to fight brand-building efforts led by operators and device-makers. Even Google and YouTube are advertising to build direct connect with the consumer and not just via operators
    • Take a mainstream business e.g. healthcare and try and morph it into the internet ecosystem instead of trying to build a me-too business
  • Emerging payment models
    • There are 18 million credit cards in India and the segment is ‘de-growing’, hence there are going to be new payment channels that are going to emerge in coming years
    • “Next 5 yrs are going to be fundamentally different from the previous 5 yrs, anyone driving looking at the rear view mirror is going to crash”
  • Hotly debated topics at the event
    • Smartphones versus. Feature phones – former is high-growth, targets an affluent segment while latter is already currency among users in India. At the same time, devices as Nokia Aasha are blurring the lines between feature and smart phones
    • Impact of the recent copyright regulation by the govt.
      • Panelists shared that the law affects radio broadcasting and the internet business is not directly impacted
      • The regulation will help fuel the growth of the publishing  industry whose rights have traditionally not been protected thanks to dominance of Bollywood
      • The regulation will help incentivise more content since there is a share of revenue now available for the publisher
  • Observations
    • On Mobile: Music & Videos
      • Non-filmy regional music has one of the fastest growing content category on mobile
      • News especially disastrous news (e.g. Tsunami, assassination) witnesses a huge demand via mobile
      • Curation is going to play a critical role in the experience offered to the consumer. In the past consumer would ‘search’, now his/her experience defined by ‘recommendation’ by friends or ‘personalisation’ basis his past usage patterns
      • There is a massive offline audience for long form videos e.g. films (largely pirated at this point)
      • While the user base is growing exponentially on mobile, there are significant gaps in the ecosystem – lack of payment channels and lack of credible metrics being the two key gaps
    • Some success stories and learnings(shared by Mohit Bhatnagar, MD, Sequoia Capital)
      • Dropbox & Instagram
        • Learning
          • Don’t try to package web into the mobile environment, there is a need for mobile-only mentality
          • Make sure the application is highly engaging.Engagement can be measured through daily/monthly active users – if you can get the audience to stay on your application, they will pay (that’s what Instagram taught)
          • Via (Bangalore based company)
            • Learning: Fail Rapidly. Iterate (for business success, you need to fail v quickly, try multiple ideas, focus on ones that are working and kill the rest)
            • Via started as an online travel agent, faced issues, changed their business model to provide nice web interface to small travel agents
            • JustDial
              • Learning: Build entry barriers
              • They didn’t follow a simplistic internet model but a strong offline and online model that makes it difficult to replicate for a new player
              • They established presence in 200+ cities working closely with local merchants

 

These are really some rough tissue paper notes, what do you think is the future of mobile entrepreneurship in India? J