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Telcos, tech players speak relevance to up internet demand in India

The recently concluded Internet.org summit in India brought out important areas of focus for internet connectivity in the country. Internet.org, an initiative by seven technology companies including Facebook, seeks to increase the adoption of internet across the globe, with a focus on fast growth markets such as India.

The prime motive of the Internet.org initiative is to bring next five billion on internet across the global. A large portion of this is sitting in India that has over 240 million internet users at the moment implying that a billion more in the country are not connected. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ looks to address this gap. To achieve this target however, the digital marketing community in India must take necessary steps to successfully accomplish the groundwork for the programme.

Better internet connectivity will create an environment for creative and innovative ideas and the benefits will be shared across the society. Further, decreased cost of internet services will make it more accessible to people who are not connected to the digital world.

As Internet.org and Digital India are discussed, marketing professionals voice opinion on the deficiencies and respective measures that will foster growth among internet users in India.

To sustain the current pace of economic growth in India, efforts need to be focussed on closing the digital divide, according to digital marketers in India.

Amit Bajaj, GE - South Asia

Amit Bajaj, GE – South Asia

“Between 2010-14 we have seen a massive increase in the number of mobile devices in India, which is a step in narrowing digital divide. It is important for mobile companies, information technology companies and brands to collaborate their efforts to reach out the audience in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in India,” observed Amit Bajaj, Communications Leader of Brand and Social Media at GE- South Asia.

Before engaging the consumer marketers need to ensure that there are no technological barriers restricting the reach of internet across all levels of the society. Media companies must maintain the match between the availability of content and platform.

Harshil Karia, Foxymoron

Harshil Karia, Foxymoron

“Other than initiatives suggested by Mark Zuckerberg like the use of solar powered drones, satellite communication and Government of India’s National Optical Fibre Network programme to foster last mile connectivity, brands need to pump in funds to incentivise growth in such areas,” added Harshil Karia, Co-Founder at Foxymoron.

Another critical area which was highlighted at the Internet.org summit was the lack of awareness about the benefits of internet connectivity which limit the use of data plans on mobile phones. Content publisher and media companies need to raise the awareness level among its potential consumers and particularly in the rural areas.

Mr Karia said that telecom and media companies have been active and have initiated campaigns to raise awareness on the benefits of internet. He quoted examples of campaign such as Idea’s “No ullu banaoing” and Google India’s campaign to connect  women to internet, that have achieved the objective successfully.

“In a B2C environment, marketers and brands need to design and create programmes that will help people in their daily lives. This is expected to increase the acceptance the digital technology among people who are still not connected to internet and marketers need the ensure relevant content at affordable prices,”added Mr Bajaj.

The language barrier
Among the most discoursed, language barrier in India continues to be a concern when it comes to connectivity and digital marketers reiterated the matter which obstructs the reach of digital content. “The concern is triggered by lack of demand for language-specific content, so it is largely a demand-supply issue. But once demand picks up we will see media owners generating content in more languages,” added Mr Karia.

Lack of adequate infrastructure and economies do pose a challenge to internet connectivity but media companies should not overlook the social barrier which restricts the entry of new users to the digital community. Also, dearth of local and relevant content drives people away from adapting to the internet services and the digital world.  Concentrated efforts are needed to knock off all such barrier and make internet affordable and accessible to all.