Understanding the wireless opportunities in the world’s top two markets – China and India

Understanding the wireless opportunities in the world’s top two markets – China and India

The first time I spoke on the topic of Opportunities in the BRIC Mobile Markets in a conference setting was back in the summer of 2006 in Moscow at the inaugural Interop conference. At the time, BRIC mobile markets were just emerging to be a big force. Net adds in the four countries amounted to 159M in 2005, in 2008, just India and China exceeded 212M. In the first two months of this year, India alone has added over 28M subscriptions. We were amongst the first ones to forecast this tremendous growth that was going to shake up the global mobile markets.

We summarized our observations in the special report for the Wireless World magazine.


Fast forward 3 years. I am putting together another presentation on the subject focused on India and China and the mobile opportunities in these markets. Interesting enough, some of the basics remain the same, and they have more to do with Business 101 than anything else.

The lure of a billion subscribers is quite tempting but these markets are not for the faint-hearted. If you go in without understanding the markets and how business is done, you will be spit out of the market in no time. The fate is similar for big and powerful players like Vodafone to small startups you may have never heard from. Companies like Real Networks who have had success worldwide learned the hard way that these markets are no walk in the park.

Here are some of the factors, IMHO, that any company needs to keep in mind before spending too much energy in these markets. They are:

Understand the market by spending time on the ground: Many a times, companies think they can enter the market from a distance, parachute some executives, and things will fall in place. Rarely are things that simple. One must spend time in the markets with potential customers, suppliers, partners, analysts, and others to get a “real” grip of the market.

Perseverance: The customers in India and China can wear you down and if you have the enough strength to last long, you are likely to be rewarded. That’s one of the reasons, even some of the stronger players didn’t succeed but smaller players like Venturi Wireless (Disclosure: VW is a client of ours) have done well with carriers in these markets.

Build Relationships: Relationships and trust matters more in Asia than in the western markets. If you have spent enough time building relationships with key companies, suppliers, individuals, it might take a long time, but in the end, that’s are what is likely to pay off.

IP Protection: IP has a different meaning in these markets. It is not enough to just file patents, technology must also be protected or else the probability of it being copied are high.

Hire local: To be successful, it is rare that you can manage and operate from afar. It is not only inefficient, it is also a risky proposition. You have to be close to the customer. Hiring local talent who understands how business is done and when “yes” actually means “yes” is critically important.

I will be discussing these and other areas in my talk at the BRIC Mobile Markets conference at CTIA on 31st March.