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Airtel's new move in India to get millions online via the mobile

Subodh Kolhe
posted on 10th November 2014
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Millions in India are coming online and their first screen is mobile. After US and China, India is being looked as the next big market with high smartphone and internet penetration coming in. And everyone wants a piece of it. Mark Zuckerberg was recently in India for the Internet.org with the agenda of getting internet to the next 5 billion people who are not online. Airtel as recently announced their 'One Touch Internet' in the same direction.

Read more - What was Mark Zuckerberg in India for?

OneTouchInternet

'One Touch Internet' is an initiative aimed at simplifying internet services for millions of first-time users in India. Airtel's 'One Touch Internet' is a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) portal designed with a simple, secure and intuitive interface that will allow first-time users to discover the internet easily and help them overcome common perception barriers around the mobile data experience.

Now available for prepaid mobile customers on Airtel - 'One Touch Internet' will work as a single point destination for uninitiated internet users to see-try-buy a host of popular services (including social networking, videos, online shopping and travel bookings) through tutorial videos and trial packs.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative, Srinivasan Gopalan, Director, Consumer Business, Bharti Airtel said,

The Indian telecom market has entered a phase of data-led growth. As data networks expand and Internet-enabled devices become affordable, more and more Indians are getting online on their mobile devices.

Read more - Why everyone is concentrating on India for the next 5 years?

Why is Airtel doing this?

There’s a huge population throughout the country and smartphones have started penetrating the masses. There are more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers but a fraction of them are on the internet.  Network penetration in India still hasn't reached the levels one would expect with the surge of smartphones over the past few years.

Airtel claims India has over 220 million Internet users of which 59% access it through mobile devices. There is potential for a greater increase in percentage. If market projections are to be believed, by 2017, India could have more than 500 million Internet users with close to 380 million browsing through their smartphones.

Most of these users, who now have low cost smartphones, are willing to get online and access Internet on their phones, but what stops them is either higher data prices or no knowledge about these data packs. Airtel’s One Touch Internet will be able to help billions of users in India overcome this critical problem. The initiative is Airtel basically handholding users into the Internet age.

Read more - Why Sundar Pichai came to India to launch Android One?

Impact

As of today, the One Touch Internet facility is available in English and Hindi. More 8 Indian local languages will soon be made available in a week’s time. To learn the workings of the Internet, Airtel prepaid mobile customers can now call 111 or simply visit on their mobile phones’ web browsers.

If Airtel is able to mobilize users to adopt their network with this proposition, it would turn tides in India. It will play a critical role in breaking viewpoints across the different diversities and opening doors for thousands of developers. This would give rise to regional content apps focusing on catering to newer audiences throughout the country. This swift penetration of mobile network coverage across the country would prove to be a game changer considering the role of Internet in socio-economic growth of the country.

These are clear signs for developers and startups across the country to build their products/services to cater to this new user base that will be coming online very soon. This user base will likely need new content that’s dominantly regional and locally focused.

Read more - Guess how much time average Indian spends on their smartphones?

Airtel’s Build

To further help developers, brands and startups to understand the different geographies with their Internet performances, Airtel has announced an appathon – BUILD for #TheSmartphoneNetwork.

It’s an enterprise to help app developers improve their network performances in mobile scenarios and get advice from network experts at Airtel. The aim of this appathon is to make app developers understand their app’s performance benchmarking in different scenarios – ambient, under heavy load, with noise, & etc.

If Airtel is able to attract app developers and get them on board with this whole movement, it could mean that it may market its Airtel Money APIs, too. Mobile Wallets are already in momentum with major players in the consumer market like Ola, Taxiforsure, Uber and PayTm mobilizing their efforts to make it mainstream. Mobile wallets won’t become mainstream in India unless there is a good integration between carriers, banks and merchants.

This new initiative by Airtel could potentially give the Indians an opportunity to enjoy their first ever Internet experience.

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