The Missed Call
Date: Monday , July 02, 2007
It was during my days in plus 12, about 12 years back, when I had bought my first personal computer. It was an Intel 486 running at 100 MHz with 128 MB RAM. Incidentally, the smart phone I carry today is more powerful than that PC, and I guess it's the same story for most of you out there.
While each of us is living through the technological changes, graduating from the PC World to the Mobile Era, collectively we have failed to cash in on the opportunity that presented itself during the process. There was once a time when it was said that India cannot play the products game because we were not close to the customer. The argument no longer holds, at least as far as the mobile space is concerned, since by the end of this year, our country will have 300 million mobile phone users—a number almost equal to the U.S. population.
Also, technology professionals in India, especially those working in the telecom services domain in firms like HCL, Wipro and Sasken have long been exposed to the pulls and pressures of the domain. The exposure has equipped them, and in effect, the services companies with knowledge that in many ways is far greater than that of the customers they have serviced. In fact, as experienced during our interactions with executives of numerous MNC product development centers, many feel that the competencies (in the telecom and wireless domain) that IT services firms like Sasken or Wipro have built are far richer than those that exist within their own centers.
In these competencies, and in being close to the market, there lay a great opportunity before the services firms (and the professionals) to come up with innovative applications and roll out products for the Indian market. Yet, look around and you will find hardly any startups attacking the challenges the mobile environment offers.
On the contrary, the U.S. has seen the spawning of several hundred startups, all looking at India and China as their growth engine. This effectively proves that not being close to customer is not a roadblock for technology startups-and even when we have been close to the customer; we have seen no dramatic change. So where lies the real problem?