Rachit Vats

<FONT COLOR="#FF0033"><B>India Digital Summit 2007:</B></FONT> Drivers of Internet growth in India

The first session of the India Digital Summit 2007 discussed the areas that will drive the growth of the Internet in India

Over the last five years or so, India has been revolutionised by the Internet, to the extent that more and more marketers are trying to integrate the Net in their communication. Nobody doubts the future of the Internet as a quick and reliable facilitator of communication and even as a medium of marketing communication. So what then is its future in India? Can the benefits of the Internet and the digital revolution be reaped without some kind of preparation now?

At the India Digital Summit 2007, the first session focused on what would possibly drive the growth of the Internet in India. The session was moderated by Pankaj Agrawala, joint secretary, ministry of communications and information technology, Government of India; the speakers included Rajan Mehra, country manager, eBay India; Hitesh Oberoi, co-founder and chief operating officer, Info Edge; Mohit Hira, director, marketing, Indiatimes.com; and Alok Mittal, executive director, Canaan Partners.

By all measures, India is one of the top six Internet using nations in the world. The Internet user base here is expected to grow to more than 70 million by March 2008. This growth will come from improved access as 'Internet ownership' (penetration) increases. But this growth may not be enough to spark the revolution of which the Internet is capable. 25-50 million Internet users are like bytes in a population of terabytes. The fundamental changes that the Internet can bring about will be visible only once this number crosses 200 million. At the moment, there seems to be no strategy or roadmap to garner such numbers. The session debated on how to get this magical number (200 million users and beyond) to make the Internet a preferred medium in India.

ISPs (Internet service providers) face a whole bunch of challenges in India when it comes to providing innovative content. Mehra centred his comments around the need to develop a forward looking Internet policy. He said, "So far, the Internet has benefited only a small section of society and policy can play a major role in improving the situation. A joint effort of public-private partnership (for an Internet policy) needs to be developed. The policy should ultimately convert challenges into opportunities and thus expand the reach of the Internet."

Mehra was of the opinion that to address the issue of low Internet penetration, it was essential to leverage the existing government infrastructure and create awareness about the Internet.

Oberoi of Info Edge stressed on the need to identify the tool that would bring in more consumers. He said, "Who is the Indian consumer? It is impossible to segment the Indian market in one single way because of its extensive fragmentation." He said that there is no single consumer that can be identified and, to spruce up the Indian Internet market, Indian entrepreneurs need to think big and devise strategies that are unique to the Indian market and not simply ape the West.

"For what works in the US may not work here," he stressed. Oberoi said that if companies developed a good online strategy, the chances were that both online and offline presence would continue to grow.

Mittal of Canaan Partners expressed concern about the need to bring in more players and funding. He said, "Funding was a major problem in the Internet market two years back. But today, capital is available. The cost of business operations has come down, too. More players with greater funding will help deliver services to the consumer."

Hira of Indiatimes.com emphasised the need to develop innovative content to bring in a new lot of consumers. He said, "In the near future, content will not be king as content by itself will hold no integral value. The line between content and commerce will blur like in the case of iTunes. Also, alternative and niche will become mainstream."

© 2007 agencyfaqs!

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com