Blog Post

E-Business Summit: Local Languages, B&C Towns, Lack Of Talent And Personal Information

Continuing with session on challenges and opportunities in e-Business over the next couple of years at the IAMAI e-Business Summit:
Dinesh Wadhawan, Managing Director & CEO of Times Internet Ltd said that changing lifestyles have led to a change in demand: the consumer wants experience at his own convenience. The future is of real time, location based content, of allowing users to share their experience; for a lot of people, their first interaction with the internet will be via the mobile. According to his data, the number of English speaking people in India, and the number of Internet users are the same (Ed: Deep Kalra had said ‘half’…both guesstimates, I guess) and regional languages will have to change the market. Advertising will have to be personalised. The Internet offers interactivity, but there’s a challenge of distribution inefficiencies. There is also a need to go to regulatory bodies with the RBI to boost e-commerce – credit cards here are not underwritten, not secured.
Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Founder & CEO of Info Edge said that the migration of users from dialup to always on – 256kbps isn’t really broadband – is a big growth driver. There will be more business, more transactions and more competition. To grow the space further, we need companies to come up with new ideas that will increase competition. But on an average, Internet users in India spend 4-5 hours a week, while the mobile is always on. Not much has been done there yet – think differently, think loud…the handshake is different and it’s not just about adding a mobile interface. Not enough is being invested in UI and technology. How many locally relevant products are being developed? But the move towards local language has to be from the big guys – Google and Microsoft will have to do that, and the others will follow suit. Another issue is the lack of availability of talent – not enough to start with, not enough people who know enough.
The Q&A (earlier part of his session here)
Responding to a question by Ramani on how the B & C class towns can be targeted, Deep Kalra said that for, 74 percent of transactions and 60-65 percent of revenue comes from outside the top five cities. The avenues for people in smaller towns are limited – user experience, haggling and virtual monopoly for some big offline travel agents. There’s a very large pilgrimage market that isn’t done well at all. Student traveling from smaller cities overseas with h1 visas, at a certain time of the year want cheap one way ticket with extra baggage…
Asked about personalisation, K Vaitheeswaran said that they initially steered away from personalization and focused on helping users become comfortable with transacting online. They will introduce personalization, but in small doses.

One interesting issue that was raised by Ranjeet Nambiar, Director of Urja Communications and a lady from GroupM was of gaining access to user data so they can offer more specific advertising and marketing services to their clients because that is expected of the Internet as a medium. They don’t want to do mass branding but they don’t have the information for targeting either. The response, from Dinesh Wadhawan was obvious – personal profiles cannot be shared without permission. They can only share predictions based on generic information that a specific users type of users log on between 3pm and 5pm, but nothing more. In the same vein, he cannot go to ICICI Bank and ask them to tell him who earns more than Rs.2.5 Lakh in a month just because he wants to sell them diamonds.