With growing smartphone penetration, digital boundaries will fade out

The stage is set, the consumer is ready and the ecosystem is in place. As I see it, consumers picking up mobile internet and pushing the boundaries for the entire ecosystem will be the big story of 2014. This push will create new opportunities for the industry and have a positive impact on the economy. The impact of mobility is felt across business and society today. The internet already contributes 1.6 per cent to India’s GDP with just about 10 per cent penetration. However, this can grow to 2.8 to 3.3 per cent by 2015 contributing $100 billion to India’s GDP according to McKinsey.

Initiatives

Mobile broadband network availability and affordability, two important aspects of large scale adoption have been addressed to quite a degree through necessary policy interventions. Initiatives such as allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI); clearing guidelines around mergers and acquisitions (M&As) along with permitting trading and sharing of spectrum; and finally deciding on more acceptable prices for spectrum auctions among others augur well for the industry in expanding mobile broadband network footprint in terms of 3G and LTE; and making services more affordable in the long term.

India has managed to add 25 million users roughly in the last three years as compared to 15 million fixed line broadband connections accrued over the last 17 years. The reality is that penetration of Internet capable mobile devices (feature phones and smartphones) in India is way higher - there were 431 million Internet capable mobile devices in use in India as of December 2012 as per Avendus Research.

Even the mobile consumptions habits of Indians are changing fast. Data is the new SMS! The average smartphone user spends around 2.5 hours daily on their device. Of this only 28 per cent of their time is now used for voice calls and text messaging while 72 per cent is spent on activities such as gaming, entertainment, apps and internet-related content. The Nokia Mobisight report reflects an increase in usage trend. For H1 2013 data consumption on Nokia mobile devices increased by two times and time spent on Internet increased by eight times over H2, 2012.

Indian consumers are already using their mobile devices for purposes such as productivity (making to-do lists, maintaining calendars), utility (paying bills), entertainment (downloading music, checking cricket scores), navigation and staying connected with colleagues and customers (through enterprise services or apps).

As smartphone penetration grows in 2014, digital boundaries will erode further with seamless integration across multiple screens and device forms. Imaging and video-on-mobile consumption will be two big mobile trends this year. More than 50 per cent of consumers are already using their smartphones for mobile photography and sharing it across social media. Likewise, with increase in screen sizes and quality of display more than 40 per cent consumers are already watching movies on their smartphones on the go; and an equal number are streaming videos online. Entertainment & online videos are growing in India at a year-on-year rate of 27 per cent.

Essential Support

A fairly vibrant local ecosystem to support this mobile internet movement is also in place. Access to mobile applications and services; and several payment models are commonplace now. Big brands, Bollywood and citizen-centric services are increasingly offering mobile interfaces. Local applications are seeing strong consumption as well as encouraging more and more developers, and driving collaboration in the ecosystem. Nokia alone has helped 168 India developers achieve more than a million downloads on the Nokia Store including Indiagames Ltd., Reliance Games and Twist Mobile.The only thing that now needs to be ensured is that all this opportunity translates into economic benefit for India. For this, the Government needs to protect against illegal Chinese imports that put local manufacturing operations at a disadvantage. It also needs to ensure a fair and transparent tax regime to continue to encourage FDI investment in the sector.

In summary, 2014 will see mobile internet take off in India and we expect consumers to be far more demanding of the entire ecosystem - whether its quality of network, quality of service, quality of experiences both from a hardware and software standpoint; or simply demanding more and more infotainment and commerce related services on the mobile platform. The stage is set; the opportunity is for India to realise.

(The author is VP and MD, Nokia India)

(This article was published on January 9, 2014)
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