Sunday, 19 July 2015

The world at our fingertips

The mobile phone has helped India leapfrog both the landline and the Internet. What exactly does this mean for a country with one of the largest and fastest growing mobile user bases in the world?

Writing for McKinsey in December 2013, tech entrepreneur Vinod Khosla recalled having said at a telecommunications seminar in Delhi in 2000, “If I were in India, I wouldn’t worry about adding ten million more copper lines. I would go straight to voice over Internet and mobile.” He added, “I didn’t have it exactly right; I missed how big mobile could become and how quickly.”

Between the time of Mr. Khosla’s article and now, India is estimated to have added over 80 million mobile subscribers and mobile Internet users. That’s roughly the same number as the total number of mobile subscriptions in the U.K.

In recent years, mobile phones have twice helped India largely bypass existing technology platforms that would have, on their own, taken decades of effort and billions of dollars of money to touch large sections of the population. The first time, it was fixed telephony. The second time, it was fixed Internet. Mobiles have helped India leapfrog them both.

An app for everything

With mobiles seemingly ubiquitous, Indians seem to be increasingly crafting their lives and work around apps. From tracking pollution in the Ganga (Bhuvan app) to alerting a Kerala snake catcher (King Cobra), there seems to be an app for everything. This is especially true of urban lives. Pick a need, and there are loads of choices: music (Wynk), commerce (Paytm), education (Coursera), groceries (BigBasket), cab (Uber), self-drive cars (Zoomcar), retail (Flipkart), price discovery (OLX), friends (WhatsApp), social networking (Facebook), professional networking (LinkedIn), security (VithU), and so on.

Read the feature in The Hindu dt. 28th Jun 2015

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