Friday, November 28, 2008

India ... some good news on a bad news day

While the world's attention is focused on the shocking events in Mumbai, it's easy to be drawn into a spiral of doom and gloom. India is a country I know well and love even more. A country full of diversity in all the best and worst that that implies. But it's richness is something one can't deny.

The potential of the country is similarly unarguable.

The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has just announced that 10.42 million mobile subscribers were added in October alone. This follows on from 10+ million in September and over 9 million in August ... making a staggering 92.1 million new mobile subscribers in 2008 so far and a total of well over 325 million nationally.

It's easy to see both why the likes of Vodafone and Telenor are making big moves on the market ... and on the flip side why behemoths like Tata are now undisputed global companies.

Ultra-low cost handsets will undoubtedly further drive the unquenchable growth in Indian mobile subscribers. But is that enough? Is it enough to just add more and more subscribers ... especially when the ARPU per subscriber is going to get ever smaller as less well off communities become connected?

India, however, can also give us much to learn about mobile content ... a continent with such a passion for music, where Bollywood stars make the Hello Magazine faces of the West seem anonymous in comparison; with such a passion for sport, where cricketers are not only megastars in the true definition of the word but are reinventing a sport and, despite the poverty in parts of the country, contributing over 70 percent of the money in the sport globally ... such a market is going to offer up rich potential for mobile content.

Well, provided the networks can cope, the pricing and business models make sense, and the right sort devices are in the hands of subscribers.

So, while there is understandable concern about the recent violence in Mumbai (and don't get me started on that ... Indian history and politics is my first love and I could wax lyrical for hours!) the potential of India remains undimmed.

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