At the Telecom Leadership Forum (TLF 2019), hosted by Voice and Data magazine, Harmeen Mehta, Global CIO and Head of Digital at Airtel presented an interesting keynote. There were two essential points towards which she sought the attention of the audience.
The first important point is about the heterogeneity of India. This heterogeneity or contradiction is not with a negative connotation. In fact, this contradiction in social, cultural, economic and political profile of India makes it a never ending opportunity, where whatever has been achieved in a short period of time, still appears to be too little; though when just looking at the accomplishments, one can cheer about them.
While India has surpassed both in quality and numbers in several aspects than the specific global leaders, there is still immense potential yet to be realised. For instance, India has some of the best colleges and universities in the world, which is supplying the highest quality of skilled professionals globally; at the same time it is also a fact that over 200 million people are illiterate in the country. Similarly, just 1% of the Indians have 58% (more than half) of the country’s wealth. There are several other examples to exhibit this contradiction.
There will be very few economies in the world which exhibit such contradiction. For technology domain this is haven, which can support its entire cycle of evolution. While it can throw up easy opportunities to sell the technology to the rich and other HNIs who can afford to pay the initial premium and kickstart the adoption, the same technology has potential to become mainstream and reach out to masses.
Consumer 2.0, which is a technology native and is immersed in various of its dimensions just requires such fertile land to bloom. This is because when the technologies which are fundamental to Consumer 2.0, need to be introduced and have affordability challenges, can be adopted by the rich in the country who will willingly pay for it a premium to give an early access to the emerging technologies and also give them a hi-fi lifestyle, which they always look for. For instance IoT can give a technology rich smart living to these people. At the same time, it would help to push a use case of IoT in the country. Once the technology is stabilised and the supply chain established which could offer the scale of economies, it helps to percolate to a wider mass of people.
This is an ideal scenario for the digital era we are entering in to. Operators have an important role to play in this, where they become the go-to-market arm of such enabling technologies resulting in Consumer 2.0. When they have such an ideal scenario in the market where they are offered a respectable market base of people who can afford such solutions in the beginning making it easy to introduce the technology. This is then followed by a huge base of population which can then help operators grow further and start ‘milking the cow’ by creating a lot more Consumer 2.0’s, in millions. For a country like India, this can go in a billion.
Perhaps the future times look a lot more promising than what we have witnessed so far in the telecom sector in India. It is just that the pain of the past is not giving the operators, essentially incumbents, headroom to go aggressive about it and act fast. They have to balance between what they are transitioning to and what they have in hand. This is the most challenging and deciding task for them. Otherwise, technology as well as business case is visible with comfortable revenue assurances.
(The author is Founder of techARC )