Category — Telecommunications

Investor Outlines Macro Trends in India

Macro thinker and author of the institutional newsletter, Global Macro Investor, Raoul Pal, identifies big trends ahead of time and has 24,000 Twitter followers. He enunciates that the next big macro idea is India.

Pal says, “India has built the world’s first national digital infrastructure, leaping at least two generations of financial technologies and has built something as important as the railroad was to the U.K. or the interstate highways were to the U.S. India is now the most attractive major investment opportunity in the world.

Pal outlines 7 phases that has made India the biggest emerging market macro story in the world. Lightly edited excerpts follow:

Phase 1 – The Aadhaar Act

In 2009, India launched a project called Aadhaar, and began creating a biometric database based on a 12-digit digital identity, authenticated by finger prints and retina scans, to identify and document its population. As of 2016, 1.1 billion people  or 95% of the population now has a digital proof of identity.

Phase 2 – Banking Adoption

The Government of India  allowed the creation of eleven Payment Banks, which can hold money but don’t do any lending. To motivate people to open accounts, the government offered free life insurance, and linked bank accounts to social welfare benefits. Within three years, more than 270 million bank accounts were opened and $10bn in deposits flooded in. People who registered under the Aadhaar Act could open a bank account using just their Aadhaar number.

Phase 3 – Building Out a Mobile Infrastructure

Since people were able to instantly open a mobile phone account using their Aadhaar identification,  mobile phone penetration surged and went from 40% of the population to 79% within a few years.

The Unique Identification Authority of India, which administers Aadhaar, met with executives from Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Qualcomm, among others, to develop Aadhar-compliant devices which can integrate features such as secure cameras and iris authentication. Microsoft launched a lite version of Skype designed to work on an unstable 2G connection, and which is integrated with the Aadhaar database, so video calling can be used for authenticated calls.

Phase 4 – UPI – A New Transaction System

On December 30, 2016, the government launched Bharat Interface for Money, a digital payments platform using a Unified Payments Interface by which payments can be made by those with Unified Payments Interface accounts to those that do not have such accounts. Additionally, people can check their bank balances, and use QR codes for instant payments on this digital payments interface. Payments can now be made without using mobile phones — just using fingerprints and an Aadhaar number is required. This system works on a 2G network so it reaches even the most remote parts of India. It will revolutionize the agricultural economy, which employs 60% of the workforce and contributes 17% of GDP. Farmers will now have access to bank accounts and credit, along with crop insurance.

Phase 5 – India Stack – A Digital Life

India Stack is a framework that will make the new digital economy work seamlessly. It’s a set of APIs (Application Programming Interface) that allows governments, businesses, startups and developers to utilize a unique digital infrastructure via a presence-less, paperless and cashless service delivery.

Essentially, it is a secure Dropbox for a person’s entire official life and creates what is known as eKYC: Electronic Know Your Customer.

Using India Stack APIs, all that is required is a fingerprint or retina scan to open a bank account, mobile phone account, brokerage account, buy a mutual fund or share medical records at any hospital or clinic in India. It also creates the opportunity for getting instant loans and brings insurance to the masses, particularly life insurance.

India Stack is the largest open API in the world and will allow for massive fintech opportunities to be built around it. India is already the third largest fintech center but it will jump into first place in a few years. The country is already organizing hackathons to develop applications for the APIs.

Phase 6 – A Cash Ban

The cash ban of November 2016 forced everyone into the new digital economy. It has the hugely beneficial side-effect of reducing everyday corruption, recapitalizing the banking sector and increasing government tax take, thus allowing India to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure.

India was a cash society but once the dust settles, cash will account for less than 40% of total transactions in the next five years. It may eliminate cash altogether in the next ten years.

Phase 7 – The Investment Opportunity

The future for India is massive technological advancement, a higher trend rate of GDP and more tax revenues. Tax revenues will fund infrastructure – ports, roads, rail and healthcare. Technology will increase agricultural productivity, online services and manufacturing productivity.

Telecom, banking, insurance and online retailing will boom, as will the tech sector. FDI is already exploding and will rise massively in the years ahead as technology giants and others pour into India to take advantage of the opportunity.

Nothing in India will be the same again.

 

August 1, 2017   No Comments

Reliance India Offers a 4G JioPhone for “Free”

India’s Reliance Industries‘ chairman Mukesh Ambani launched the 4G-enabled feature phone, the JioPhone at the company’s annual general meeting. This mobile phone is free for 3 years with a refundable deposit of $23.

4G VoLTE-enabled JioPhone

 

India.com reports that the 4G VoLTE-enabled JioPhone is packed with features such as:

  • Unlimited voice, data, and texts for a data plan of $2.50 per month
  • Support for all languages
  • It is pre-loaded with Jio apps, a flashlight, an expandable SD card slot, a headphone jack, microphone, speaker and 4-way navigation
  • An intelligent voice assistant command option that can help users make calls, use Jio apps, search the web, and more
  • It includes an SOS feature and also supports FM Radio
  • Its “Jio Phone TV-Cable” can be connected with any television, not just smart TV

The move by Reliance can prove to be the next disruptor in India’s telecom market.

 

July 21, 2017   No Comments

Key Takeaways from UBS Research on India’s Mobile Carriers

In February and March 2017, UBS Evidence Lab conducted an online consumer survey on the telecom usage of ~1,500 respondents in India. The survey was conducted in 8 cities in different states. Respondents were smartphone users and the decision makers/influencers in choosing mobile carriers. UBS analysts released a consumer survey report in May 2017.
Key Takeaways from the Report as shared by ET Telecom:
  • The most favored carrier was Bharti Airtel
  • There was no least favored carrier
  • Nearly one-third of respondents were Reliance Jio users, but nearly 50 percent of them used it as a secondary SIM
  • Survey suggests satisfaction level of Jio is comparable to Airtel
  • Jio’s share of revenues at 5.7% in FY2018, will  rise to 9.8% by FY2020
  • Recently launched bundled plans by incumbents suggests pricing gap with Jio has narrowed
  • UBS estimates industry revenue to decline 4% in FY2017 and grow 1.7% in FY2018, below the 9-11% growth in FY15
  • The need for continued spending on capex and spectrum is triggering industry consolidation
  • There is a clear correlation between market share and margins for telcos; greater scale should provide operating leverage for Idea-Vodafone

UBS Consumer Survey on Indian Mobile Carriers

June 27, 2017   No Comments

ITU Accepts India’s Proposal on Rural 5G

At the International Telecommunication Union – Radio Communications‘ terrestrial radio systems (WP5D) meeting held in Canada, the Indian delegation championed the mandatory adoption of a configuration called Low Mobility Large Cell (LMLC) for 5G technology. The proposal has been approved by the global telecom organization.

ITU Logo

This configuration focuses on low mobility users in a set of villages and farms spread over a large area and is likely to become a game changer. New radio systems will need to incorporate this criterion for qualifying as 5G.

Noting that only 13 percent of India’s rural population had access to Internet, the Cellular Operators Association of India said, “Connecting rural India with high-speed mobile broadband will become a reality soon.” By 2020, the National Optical Fiber Network will reach all the 250,000 villages in the country, the Association added.

June 23, 2017   No Comments

Intel Invests $178 Million for R&D in India

Santa Clara, CA-based Intel Corporation will invest $178 million in India to set up a new research and development center in Bangalore said Intel India’s general manager Nivruti Rai at a news conference. This fresh investment is in addition to the $4.3 billion  Intel invested in the country over the last 15 years since it set up its largest design center outside the U.S.

Intel Corporation logo

 Spread over a 44-acre campus, the new center will have a computer software development, hardware design services and verification facility. “The nine storied building with 620,000 sq.ft. of office space will be completed in the next nine months,” said Rai. “The new facility will enable us to continue our momentum in doing cutting-edge innovation and design work from India,” he added.

The company’s Indian subsidiary has about 7,000 engineers to design and power semiconductor chips for its global customers, including original equipment manufacturers of computers, smart phones and other electronic devices, reports ET Telecom.

June 19, 2017   No Comments