I am just back from Mumbai first Mobile Monday event and it was a wonderful evening. Despite the best efforts of the Mumbai rains to disrupt the first meet Veer could successfully gather a wide variety of people from different segements of the mobile media value chain.Kudos Veer ! It was nice to meet an interesting crowd of about 30 people which had representation from Telecom Operators(Tata Teleservices),Operator Portal Providers(MyZus), Aggregators(Onmobile), Media company (Rajshri Media, Next Gen Publishing House ), Media Owners(Group M), currently well known players in the Internet space Rediff, Mouthshut(waiting to whet into the mobile opportunity J), Mobile Platform providers(Palm, mChq) , Product Companies(Netcore) ,folks representing from VC(SVB, Seedfund.in). Interestingly there were few folks from the press as well (Hindustan Times & Businessworld).
Veer kicked off the meet with explaining to the gathered what Mobile Monday was about and how it is poised to be a platform for bringing various people across the mobile industry to interact in an informal way. From there the conversation shifted to theme of the meet., “Mobile Internet from an Indian perspective”. Rajesh set the ball rolling on topic by sharing some of his experience, perspectives and takeaways from his mobile internet experience in India. Some of the points that he mentioned that I found interesting
- Could access news through mobile data in a remote village in Rajasthan two years ago.
- Could read a PG Woodhouse , a 200 page novel during a 2 hour car drive going towards outskirts of Mumbai
- The infrastructure for mobile data is pretty well established in India. It can be ranked among the top 5 – 10 in the world.
- A Wall Street article in the early 2000 screamed that Mobile Internet is the next big thing but nothing has happened so far even after 6 years. There are multiple problems that need to be solved in the entire ecosystem to make mobile internet mainstream.
- There is a lot of downloadable content but a total lack of browsable content.
- Mobile data could be the next big CRBT for telecom and for users it could bridge a big information gap.
There were some interesting questions & discussion that ensued after this, interesting thoughts that came out were.
KB (SVB): Is the biggest challenge of mobile internet that it is the way we access information through mobile is not friendly enough. If we make the interaction with mobile a question answer kind of a mode while we seek information will that effectively increase the usage.
Faizal: ( I could’nt belive that he looked so young, in one of the photos in an interview he looked very old. he is founder of mouthshut.com, a 6 year old Indian internet company and they did user generated content way before many had a wind of what user generated content.) user interface with mobile is one of the biggest problem , if we could get a way to connect the information leading from mobile that could solve a lot of problem
Later Pankaj Sethi ( of Tata Teleservices) spoke for a few minutes with help of 4 slides on a telco’s perspective on mobile internet. He started the topic with defining what mobile internet is about . It is accessing information that resides on the internet/server on a mobile device which has a limited screen size. Rest of what he said in the other three slides I found it very boring/oft-repeated that I was totally tuned out and now I don’t even remember what he said but I think he said something to the effect of search and advertising are something that works and should be replicated for mobile internet to become successful. I guess I tuned out probably because I was having high expectation from his talk. I had watched one of his earlier talk that he gave at last year at BREW conference and I found that it was absolutely great.
After this interesting thoughts and point of view came from many people. Mahesh of Seed fund said that he thinks mobile internet will take of when mobile phone will start having QWERTY keyboards. He also made another point that which I found highly was that for many people the only exposure to the internet will be through a mobile phone and we have to get out of the mindset of developing apps for PCs and porting them to mobile. We have to think about mobile application as if PC never existed. Some of these thoughts he also echoed in a podcast few days ago at Kamla Bhatt’s podcast show.
Rajjat owner of Rajshri Media said something that is worth pondering over deeply. Fifteen years ago 80% of the media content were made were for cinema halls and they were forcefitted or adapted to TV, today about 80% of the media are made for TV and some of them are being tried to forcefit for a mobile phone. Fifteen years from now 80% of the media will be made to be watched in a mobile phone. By in itself the statement might not be very great but once you start thinking about who are the folks who(read prosumers) are going to be making these 80% of the media to be watched in the mobile phone then it clearly indicates a tectonic shift happening.
Not so surprisingly the discussion then slipped into a debate of how telco are acting as a closed garden and the rest of the time it was about what kind of business model works in mobile internet and how much of the pie the small content/app developer should get. It invariably divided the crowd into two groups where on the one side poor Mr Pankaj was at the one end representing the telco and who was battling of the charges levied against telcos and said that telcos are gain returns on the multi billion dollars that they invest to create a network. On the other side Faizal was very vocal about how the closed garden approach was stifling a lot of innovation. Roshan D Silva safely made a suggestion that if operators have the resource to really coordinate very well the entire ecosystem including content provision on their own then they should run a closed network or else open garden approach is much beneficial.
I guess most of the rest of the time was totally spent on how money can be made and arguments on the way to split the pie.
Towards the end of it I dared to offer a few of my thoughts on the topic. I think too much of the talk has been about business(i.e about value capture and the share in it). To talk fight over value capture before value creation is funny. The discussion that is going on is about owning the part of the mobile internet as if it were a thing and as if it is the birth right of a telecom provider to own it. Doc Searls had long ago noted in a brilliant article that the internet is not a thing but a set of interconnected agreement, so if we are talking about mobile internet I think pretty much the same applies except that the end point is mobile (which was static earlier) now which changes its dynamic/economics. Internet is an end to end network and that is the one that unlocks a tremendous amount of value. Even the phenomenal success of i-mode in japan is due to its end to end nature. Once the network is made end to end let the market forces solve the pain points in different segments of mobile chain and thus unlock more value. Fighting for value capture even before value creation reminds of the story of the goose that laid golden eggs.
Most of the opinions that were tabled or discussed in the room were around the notion of arbitrage and much of the facts stated were referenced to reports from the like Gartner/IDG (aawwh! ), I would have liked more of the solutions(based on technology or just simple economics) to improve the not so wide adoption of mobile internet.