When afaqs! asked a few thought leaders from the industry what they thought was the most 'powerful idea' that promised change in the 21st century, there were the usual responses and a few surprises too.
The most obvious and prominent was Social Networking. Masked in words like 'Internet', 'search', or 'community', Social Networking has found an overwhelming acknowledgement by leaders as being capable of changing our lives.
"...and no, I'm not talking about Facebook and Orkut!" clarifies Atul Phadnis, CEO and chief evangelist, MediaE2E. According to him, these two sites have popularized the idea of social networking, which now awaits creative extension by others.
However, he agrees that in countries like India, where Internet penetration is low, there might be large communities left out of the 'community building'; nevertheless, he believes that the progress of mobile telephony will be the driver, leading to an empowering sub-idea: Mobile Social Networking.
This thought is echoed by Rajeev Karwal, founder, Milagrow Business and Knowledge Solutions who has written a book on Corporate Social Blogging. He feels that the 5 per cent Internet penetration would still be large enough to stir change, as it will be powered by large offices, 3G, blogging in regional languages and elimination of PC costs, as the mobile phone becomes more capable of networking.
He believes very strongly that social networking can give people, particularly in India, a platform for free and fair expression of views and create communities like the recent 'Pink Chaddi' campaign.
Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults, explains why the Internet and mobile telephony are so powerful, "Man's dream has been to fly - out of the cocoon of his existence. Distances prohibit travel. So does expense. The Internet does away with these hurdles and gets man to travel to distant lands virtually. It bridges the hurdle of communication lead-time."
Though the ideas are there; where is the monetization? Where is the green in the spark? Karwal says that in the next five to six years, there will be dramatic changes in marketing of goods and services, thanks to this platform. How these online models will monetize, is a mystery waiting to unfold.
Phadnis, however, feels that there is scope for any kind of business or service to use these platforms to build communities and stimulate conversations. Great insights can emerge from these and any platform that allows like-minded people to meet and share views can inspire leaders amongst them. The sooner businesses realize this and start acting on getting a social networking angle, the better the edge they will get.
There is some business in the model, but at the moment, there is a question mark after the exclamation mark.