We’re now full swing into the New Year, past the slew of the majority of trend predictions for the year in this or that area of work, from media to education. Many of those predictions are coming true, others aren’t, and most still remain to be seen. Last week, I wrote my own set of predictions about what 2013 will bring for technology in India. I got a lot of comments, many of which focused on why I did not include trends in energy or healthcare. To clarify, I’m writing only about technology trends. I think this year is going to be quite exciting and we are going to see many innovations and all kinds of growth. However, some things are just not going to happen, and nobody wants to talk about them. So, here is what we won’t be seeing this year:
More Technology Incubators
Last year was the year of incubators, accelerators, micro VC funds, technology labs and everything in-between, to help get your startup up and going. But now we have an imbalance of funds and not enough quality entrepreneurs in India. This is a lethal combination - too many inexperienced entrepreneurs are getting funded by too many inexperienced investors. Many incubators will end up either investing in sub-par companies, while the lucky ones won’t be able to find any investment-worthy deals at all. By the end of 2013, incubators and accelerators will be largely out of fashion.
This presents the opportunity for experienced professionals with great teams to start a company. In fact, I would argue that it’s much easier to stand out of the crowd and get funded here in India than most other places in the world today.
Adoption of 4G
Despite all the hype surrounding 4G, I don’t see it making much of an impact this year. Indeed, we will see a 4G launch by the end of this year, but without any significant adoption. I foresee, as a consumer, that what we will get is an expensive, closed loop, wall-gardened, high speed network and not an open ecosystem - but one that works well.
Unique Identification (UID), also known as Aadhar
UID is an amazing initiative and is well needed for the country. I do hope that it truly does take off, but unfortunately it won’t. There are too many barriers and not enough incentives for citizens to enrol. Politically, we will hear some announcements and high enrolment numbers, but actual usage will be minimal.
Every fancy management consulting report I have read over the last five years has stated that this will be the year of the “Indic Internet.” Although investments in local language operating systems have happened, they just have not taken off and won’t, especially on desktop and laptop computing devices. How many Hindi keyboard computers have you seen? Attempts over the last several years to establish relevancy for local language content on the web have had limited success. Jagran.com by Danik Jagran has done a fantastic job and so has Wikipedia, but these are minor victories.
On mobile, with the capability of virtual keyboards, one would think somebody would have taken the challenge to design a local language OS, but there does not seem to be enough consumer demand. English remains the language of most higher education, the language of business, and the aspirational language for most of the country.
Increase in mobile advertising
Mobile advertising will stay stagnant in 2013. With inherent poor targeting yielding a poor return on investment, we won’t see a dramatic increase in mobile advertising despite the growth in smartphone adoption. What we need are innovations in new mobile ad formats that provide better targeting and measurability for advertisers and are more relevant for the needs of consumers.
That special $40 tablet
We all want it, and we want it badly. We think it is going to change the world, but it’s not just not going to happen this year. A low cost tablet will be released but it won't be something that will be considered usable by professionals and it won’t get much traction. I do think that by the end of the year, we will see a good $100 tablet which will be disruptive. But overall, the tablet trend will be strong and tablet sales will eclipse laptop sales by 2014. We will also start to see more tablets being used in retail settings.
Broadband penetration has not had much success in the last couple of years - we have had some growth, but in comparison to China it seems inconsequential. China has a total of 120M broadband connections, with an average internet connection speed of 2.07 mbps. India, on the other hand, has only 15M broadband connections and a much slower average speed of about 1 mbps. As badly as we need better broadband infrastructure, I don’t foresee any significant progress happening this year. This is of utmost importance to our nation’s economy and without proper internet infrastructure, the already existing digital divide will become even greater.
There is some potential with the government’s National Fiber Optic Network (NFON) plan to connect rural India and I do sincerely hope that this initiative does indeed get started this year.
Innovations in Payments
The ecosystem has been trying for years to get a payment solution in India and multiple companies have tried many different technologies, from SMS, mobile payments, NFC and others, but nothing has caught on. There are just too many moving parts and I don’t see any payment solutions taking off in the short term future. Besides, there is no real “demand” from the consumers for a payment problem waiting to be solved. Credit cards are becoming almost universally accepted now and we will see more mobile credit card readers becoming a norm.
(Gautam Gandhi heads New Business Development in Google India. He splits his time between San Francisco and Gurgaon. He tweets at @gkgandhi.)
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. They do not represent the view of the organisation he represents.
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