Looking at the increase in usage of smartphones in India, a number increasing everyday, mobile phones are the carrier of technology that will transform India as a nation. Smartphones mean access to technology and internet which mean access to information. More and more people in India, especially from rural India, are joining the internet trend.
Be it a farmer filling a complaint online or a young kid posting an update on social media, Internet has penetrated in India and with mobile as tools will digitize India.
Talking about such innovations in mobile businesses and the funding scenario in this industry, I had a conversation with Nilesh Kothari, co-founder of Trifecta Capital at the Mobile Forum 2016 organized by News Corps VCCircle. A venture capital firm, Trifecta is behind successful startups such as Knowlarity and Helchat and continue to provide technological and investment advise to many buddign entrepreneurs.
What are some of the innovations in mobile businesses in India?
Clearly, the whole mobile infrastructure is changing rapidly, we are seeing faster speed, smarter internet penetration, greater adaptation, change of what smartphones were primarily being used for, from social networking to doing business. Around that, we are seeing many interesting businesses being built in edutech, FinTech, discovery, ecommerce and IoT.
What I think is full potential of mobile led businesses will only be visible in a couple of years from now, when the whole infrastructure is created. I think, as Reliance Geo and the 4G networks rolled out, that will make these businesses more robust and will be able to scale full potential.
Internet will play a key factor in your business. How do we ensure that these changes will reach to the bottom of pyramid?
As Telecos roll out their network, the prices of both data and smartphones are coming down. The awareness of smartphones as a very intelligent tool, which can do many things besides a phone call, that’s growing rapidly. And we are seeing this not only in the big cities but also at the bottom of the pyramid. In the big cities, people are carrying a phone and the same is for small cities. The farmers are using smartphones to check weather and the kind of crops they should sow.
There's a lot of information and the adaptation is surprisingly faster than anyone had expected. This is only going to grow as people begin to find various uses for those devices. The adaptation and usage will increase.
What’s the investment scenario in mobile business?
Venture capitalist investors are looking for disruptive businesses that can scale and reach the deepest parts of India. It is very clear that mobile is that medium. I don’t think anyone has an allocated fund, but that said, technology led businesses, and mobile is mostly at forefront of that technology, investors are looking at them very favorably and they will continue to increase their allocations to businesses that can solve real problems.
From the past two-three years, we have been aping what's happening in the west. But lately, there has been an increased awareness in India about the problems that need to be solved in unique ways. Clearly, mobile has several advantages there.
Do you think what will be the role of your video content in the industry?
Video content is known for its attractiveness, ability to communicate better, ability to arouse curiosity, connect with the audiences. It is far greater than visual images and even audio text. Across different businesses, video content is playing a role. As the speed will increase, people will actually download more videos because they can connect better with the videos. Video is going to play a very important role, so far, it has had limited outreach due to its slow speed internet in the country. It’s going to change clearly in next 12-18 months.
The startup ecosystem is facing an investments drought, will this be the nre funding trend?
Well, the fact is that the VC firms who operate and invest in India are sitting on over 3 billion dollars, which is the highest ever had. So, I don’t think that investments are drying up. i believe there is a correction phase after the euphoria of the last year. These are cycles VC goes through and I think these cycles may perhaps last for 3-6 months.
We are looking at significant investments. There are VC funds we know who have started rising more actively than in last month. The total investment in India will only increase every year going forward.