Mobile is always seen as a front runner in claiming India’s position in digital landscape. The mobile density in India is in upwards of 48 % whereas Internet penetration continues to lag between 4-6%. Mobile internet usages is also on upheaval trend worldwide due to increasing sales of iPhone and other high end phones. The launch of App stores from almost all of handset makers is also fueling the mobile internet and social networking usages.
So how is India fairing in Mobile Internet space and specially the use of Social networking on mobile. This debate was recently discussed on Afaqs with Indian social networking players pointing out the current set of opportunities & challenges for it to succeed in India.
Here is our analysis on what we feel are Important Opportunities & Challenges for mobile social networking to succeed in Indian Markets.
India’s telecom subscriber base has touched record highs of 530 millions and is touted to garner 770 million mobile subscribers by 2013 thus leaving no dearth of mobile audience in India. This penetration is more effectual for mobile social networking growth as urban towns now command mobile penetration in excess of 100 per cent.
The main question then arises is how much of this population is well versed or could adopt social networking on mobiles in a big way. As such mobile social networking space cannot be divided into any segments as online social networking usages serves as a precedence to mobile adaption although it could be categorized with active and passive usages .
According to Ashish Kashyap, CEO, ibibo.com as told to Afaqs, “Mobile social networking is growing driven by a couple of factors. First of all, growth of data-enabled handsets and push from mobile operators from their ‘Live’ decks. Secondly, growth of social networking on the PC and percolating to the mobile. Thirdly, strong signs of viral growth amongst GPRS audiences, who are not accessing the Internet on PC, and finally, local applications on the mobile that drive engagement and relationship enhancers.”
We very much agree with Ashish’s point-of-view as the first wave of opportunities lies in converting the current bunch of active social networking junkies on to mobile platform .The second wave will relate to converting web-ignorant users on to mobile social networking by either attracting them on to web portals in initial or giving them certain benefits to adopt to such platforms.
So the opportunities could be enlisted as:
- High number of mobile subscribers
- Vast amount of mobile subscribers already using or comfortable with VAS services
- Deeper integration of Mobile apps on to handsets to bring more users
The major challenge for Mobile social networking lies in the high amount of data tariffs prevailing in the country.It is no surprise that majority of telecom users pay 10 paisa/10 kb of usages when in some cases voice calls could be made at similar tariffs(10-30 paisa/min). So if a user surfs a social networking site or uses social apps( Web App Vs Native Apps ) for few mins he is siphoned off by a large amount.
This hindrance can only be solved if the telecom players decide to penetrate deeply into the data market and take it as a major revenue contributor then just a low lying value added service. Even TRAI should stop such prejudice as mobile tariffs affects almost half of Indian population who are a potential set of mobile internet users.
According to Viren Popli, Head – TV and Digital Initiatives, Mumbai Mantra (Mahindra & Mahindra), “There are two challenges – one is the penetration of the data itself, so if you don’t have data, you are stuck with mobile social networking on text. Social networking is about one to many and hence, it automatically has to be linked to the Internet as mobile is not the best place for one to many kind of transactions at this point in time. So, till that happens, there will be challenges in this space. However, for India, mobile social networking will have much bigger potential than Internet social networking as there are many companies working on this space, so, hopefully some of them will be successful and it is definitely higher than what it was earlier, but we still have a long way to go.”
However we still wants to argue with Viren’s point of Indian social networks ability to attract many first time users onto mobile social networking platform.As already said above web usages are a precedence to any mobile social networking usages and this can only be overcome by providing benefits like cheaper way of communication(free SMS ,Voice calls on social apps) to mobile subscribers.
Challenges in Near-Term:
- High data tariffs
- Lack of standard Social networking apps/App store access
- Advent of 3G/faster Mobile internet
Hence, mobile social networking fortunes are closely knit together with that of mobile internet.To make a mark in mobile social networking first barriers to mobile internet are to be overcome.
WAT’s your take – Can Mobile social networking outshine Online social networking usages in India?