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How India will embrace the digital era

The indications are already there. Facebook has 100 million users in India, the most after the US. There are 45 million WhatsApp users, and 55 million visits to YouTube every month.

twitter-logo Sunny Sen        Last Updated: August 21, 2014  | 19:33 IST
How India will embrace the digital era

Sunny Sen
We have been talking about India's Internet revolution for a long time. Some say it has come, others say it has yet to happen. In America, it started about two decades ago, and Americans saw companies like Amazon and Ebay coming up.

But in India even in the early 21st century an Internet connection at home was a novelty-at the turn of the century there were only five million Internet users in the country.

Internet caught the frenzy of people only five years ago. Only by the end of the first decade of the century, companies like Flipkart and Snapdeal became well known. Facebook set up its office in India only in 2010. Yahoo and Google were perhaps the only companies which understood the India potential long back. Media companies in India, like most others in other parts of the world, are still struggling to find a digital business model.

Amid all this, AT Kearney and Google launched a report titled "Creating the next multi-billion dollar online opportunities in telecoms". The report only bolsters the belief that in the future Internet will change our lives. Countries like Japan and Korea, which are considered to be the leaders in online adoption, took a decade to get where they are today, but in India experts say the race to the top will be much faster.

The indications are already there. Facebook has 100 million users in India, the most after the US. There are 45 million WhatsApp users, and 55 million visits to YouTube every month.

The more mind-boggling number is that 50 per cent of Google and YouTube users access the site from their mobile phones. India has about 80 million smartphones, and the number is expected to grow five times by 2017. Telecom operators are getting ready for the big boom, which by no extent of imagination can turn into a bust.

The evidences are clear-Bharti Airtel, India's largest telecom operator, has started advertising that its network is a "smartphone network", and Vodafone has bombarded the television with data ads. In the next three years, data is expected to give an additional $8 billion revenue to the telecom ecosystem, and $2.9 billion of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

Data revenue itself will grow at 70 per cent. This will happen through new digital services like m-payment, m-health and m-education, preceded by e-education and e-health. Then there is integration of banks, payment providers and telecom operators. All this will be topped with huge money coming from entertainment services like movie streaming and music services like iTunes, and then there is e-commerce.

In the next three years, the e-commerce industry is expected to at least treble in the next three years to become a $30 billion industry. And all this is just the beginning of an era-the digital era, where India has till now been a laggard. But in the years to come it will show the world the way forward, and to start with, by the end of this year, India will have more Internet users than the US.

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