I was kinda lambasted by my indian and chinese friends for not really having any meat in my last post. =) Thats cool, do keep the comments coming so I know what you want to read about.
I will highlight several conversations with local Indians here:
With Avnish Bajaj, Chairman Ebay India
- He defines Web 2.0 as comprising of mainly social networks or other web-based social services where the usage model hinges heavily on users spending a phenomenal amount of time perusing the internet. (think Digg, flickr, blogs…)
- Asia has 2 divergent paths for Web 2.0 businesses. They will flourish in countries like Japan and Korea where prevailing user habits has much of the web audiences spending phenomenal amounts of time on their broadband accounts. Web 2.0 will have no traction in India and most other Asian countries lacking firstly, access to basic internet infrastructure and secondly, social factors such as usage of internet in their lives.
- But, Avnish also mentioned there exists high potential for non-social web 2.0 models where the usage of the web service does not depend on user labor (ala Facebook, Digg) He believes a purely advertising-based business model will work in India and can see the potential for that.
My thoughts: Avnish’s answer gave me deja vu. It reminded me of a similar presentation by the VP Marketing of Yahoo! at the Berkeley Play! conference last year. There is a huge disparity of usage patterns between dialup and broadband users many in the Web 2.0 sector in Asia has failed to grasp fully. While Youtube and blog-reading is highly popular in Singapore, it doesn’t necessarily translate to a broad increase in propensity of all web users to peruse other productivity services such as online calendars, event-search engines or travel-based products, even if these might increase daily routine activity efficiency. The broadband penetration in Singapore and much across Southeast Asia is still a niche segment.
With a 14-year old boy outside JW Marriott in Juhu Beach:
- it was a useless conversation but the boy’s resourcefulness in tapping upon his unfair advantage of being able to speak hindi, gujarati, punjabi in addition to a smattering of english, was another reminder how cloistered youths in Singapore are. We have a lot to learn from the less privileged peoples of developing nations who simply have more hunger and drive to not succeed, but simply survive in the world. When you have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain.
Same goes with this other 12-year old kid in Goa running his own store selling cotton shirts and carpets. I had walked down the street going past multiple stores without buying anything and hHe was trying desperately to get me to buy stuff. While older savvier shopkeepers will play a protracted bargaining game with you while whittling down their margins, this kid had a refreshing approach in offering his lowest first to bait me, the jaded tourist-shopper, into looking at his goods, and i rewarded his observational skills by coughing out some rupees.
A fisherman on Calangute Beach, Goa:
- 42 years old single male who detested a hectic life in the cities. No ambition, no plan in life.
- His daily routine comprised mainly of fishing at 5am, selling prawns at 6 rupees each to wholesalers, walking along th beach and settling down at dusk to smoke a joint and enjoy the sounds of the waves till 9pm when he will head back home, watch tv and sleep.
A manager at the beachfront bar on Calangute Beach,
- Hailed from Uttar Pradesh, in search of riches in Mumbai but got sick of the 24/7 boring routine of serving food at 5-star hotels.
- Decided to head to the beach where money was lesser but life less stressful.
- Sleeps at the bar even off work and off-season, almost given up hope on starting a family.
Ticket Inspector at Bandra train station:
- Highly articulate, speaks very good english and able to debate coherently about the nuances of indian laws on railway fares
- Takes bribes from errant passengers after a long conversation on the rule of law in india and his morals.