India Digital Summit: ‘The Quality Of Broadband Penetration Is Equally Important’

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While the Internet has become the fastest growing medium in the media and entertainment industry, it still beset with challenges ranging from low broadband penetration to lack of understanding of this medium by marketers. One of the panel discussions at the Fourth India Digital Summit, organised by IAMAI in Mumbai on December 3, 2009, saw panelists discuss these issues at length in the session on ‘Internet – 5 steps to Growth’.

The panelists included Surya Mantha, CEO, Web 18; Dinesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO IndiaMART.com; CVS Suri, CEO, Sify Ltd; and Hari V Krishnan, Country Manager, LinkedIn India. The session was moderated by Subho Ray, President, IAMAI.

Commencing the discussion, Suri said, “First and foremost we need to understand where we are as a medium in India and around the world. Internet penetration for example in Russia is 32 per cent, while in China it is 27 per cent and in India it is merely 7 per cent. Therefore a tremendous amount of effort is needed to increase the penetration. Only recently Obama Administration announced 7.2 billion initiative to wireup the entire US, a similar initiative was launched in Australia so, this is where the world is moving and that’s how even India should move.”

Mantha observed, “Internet broadband benefits seem rather defused, in other countries a lot of investment went into infrastructure. The quality of broadband penetration is equally important. Bandwidth cost in India is very high so gaining profitability is equally difficult. Let us stop complaining and see what can be done. Monetization of internet on the other is abysmal in India but, for this we as an industry are to be blamed as we have not made the case about this medium to brand managers and medium planners, evangalising must have happened but, it was miniscule.”

Agarwal noted, “Despite the fact that the percentage of penetration in India is very low but, 50-60 million users is a big number. Although we need to do more work to increase the penetration and make broadband speed faster but, are we doing enough to educated the customers to make the best of what is available? We need to get back to the ground and we need to show value of the medium to the existing users and therefore we will get brand ambassadors in every user who would help the medium growth even faster.”

According to Krishnan, “Internet developed around few pillar companies and these companies influenced a lot many. I believe companies in India need to invest in product and services along with a focus on improving their product. What they need to do is to keep innovating and partnering with other companies and therefore bring in new users.”

Be patient or lose out:

Agarwal explained, “Are we investing enough to create good product and services? Internet is not a quick money making machine, businesses die because they do not have enough patience to keep innovating or coming up with new ideas. Google for instance comes up with innovation one after another. What we need to do is invest more on product and services and keep innovating them.”

Suri pointed out, “More the innovation, the more is the drawing power and unless you have the reach the ability to leverage what you have becomes limited. This apart, there are infrastructure needs to be built, there needs to be new investments and infrastructure is one area of leverage for us as a community which can make us grow over 50 per cent year on year.”