India: Internet and mobile market poised for major growth in 2013

In an opinion piece for AllThingsD, Vinodh Bhat, CEO of South Asian music service Saavn, offers a series of predictions for the coming year in India's Internet and mobile market, led by the rise of Android devices. 

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The overall theme of Bhat's analysis is that 2013 will be the year in which the world's biggest tech companies -- Apple, Google, Facebook, Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon -- direct their efforts toward developing the "mobile-first" society represented by the emerging Indian market. While many of India's most successful tech companies are domestic and family-run, Bhat suggests that the big brand marketers will lead the way in 2013, bringing new devices and service integration to India's Internet landscape. 

"2013 will mark the year Indian consumers wake up, finally become attuned to what is possible and start to voice their demands for services that make their day-to-day lives easier and more efficient," Bhat writes. "And the services that will succeed are those that — in the words of Steve Jobs — “just work.”

Bhat's clear winners for the coming year are Android, Facebook, and 3G network providers. In 2012, Android accounted for 30% of Indian smartphone sales, a number expected to rise to 60% in 2013. Only 9% of urban Indians currently own smartphones, so as newer, cheaper Android smartphones continue to enter the market, this statistic, along with corresponding access to Google's app ecosystem, will certainly rise. 

India also became Facebook's second-largest market behind the United States in 2012. On the strength of its growing mobile market, India will move to number one next year, Bhat predicts, doubling the current 65 million registered users. 

3G data consumption is expected to rise next year as well, as carriers reduce data transfer costs and make data plans more appealing to consumers with expanded access to app ecosystems. 4G networks are still another year off, Bhat predicts. 

The full set of predictions is worth reviewing, since much of what Bhat says hints as much at potential strategies among global rivals as it does at India's promising year ahead. His biggest claim is that Samsung will become India's Apple, displacing OEMs such as Nokia and undercutting firms such as Apple that have thus far taken a less aggressive approach to brand development in India than Samsung and Facebook.