Note: This is a 2-part series of covering Location-based Services in Indian context. Below is the 2nd part & 1st part is published here.

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As discussed in my yesterday’s post, I tried to present a case wherein the status quo of Indian internet vis-a-vis emerging technologies like location-based services was presented keeping the present status of Indian mobile market & its various nuances.

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In this post, I’ll try to wrap up with different cues where I feel that location-based services can actually help in India’s internet growth story much quicker than anticipated.

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Before that couple of recent developments which caught my attention:

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1. Rediff buying in minority stake in Location-based services startup called Imere Technologies (Link)

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2. Indian telco Reliance launched BigMaps on their GSM network (Link)

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3. Not to mention, Google launched their own service (free) called Latitude (Link)

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And many more developments on & off the radar of my social graph that I’ve been able to capture. So looking at these developments, it’s needless to say that location-based services do have some life on their own (even though not at a mass level, especially for Indian markets).

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But lets start from a quote from Ajit Balakrishnan, Rediff Chairman –

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Location-awareness in applications is critical for hyper-local search and local advertising besides many evolving social networking and enterprise applications.

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Now let’s freeze it there. Indeed that’s true. LBS is very critical looking at the context of reaching that extra mile into 7743consumer’s habits and indulging them into buying something or making it easy for consumers to make a buy decision. And that’s where the real money is for applications that are being developed & deployed.

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But can we really say that location-based services give enough impetus and become one of the key drivers to push the Indian internet growth story?

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Though I’m optimistic but still I don’t see it happening to a mass level with immediate effect. Reasons are plenty as I discussed in yesterday’s post but surely there’s something intriguing which prompts me to say that LBS can fuel internet reach to the mass level. Here are some of the reasons I feel so:

1. LBS’s reach to rural consumers: Lets face it, until & unless, internet reaches to the SEC C & interior parts of India, we can’t ever say that Internet as a medium has achieved mass acceptance. Now that’s tough to attain looking at broad reasons like infrastructure development & blah blah blah. But mobile as a medium cuts that intermediate barrier since Indian telecom infrastructure is one of the best since it already supports nearly 500 million subscribers and makes it easy for anybody from some remote corner of India to access internet via his mobile phone. Now again, my previous assumption of reduced hardware costs & enough data access to remote corners of the country would be crucial for seamless mass adoption which I feel happening sooner or later since for telcos to survive, differentiation at root level via larger set of data access post 3G auction is the key.

2. Win-Win proposition for publishers, advertisers & content devourers: Location is the core element in mobile applications (so as to say). It opens numerous doors for content publishers & advertisers to geo-target consumers since we carry the mobile device along with us everywhere. Though the context changes everything we are on the move, but it opens wide range of services for location based services to offer to consumers. Though free location-based services supported by advertising-driven model would work primarily but going forward when the average screen size of mobile devices will increase & cross-compatibility of different devices with network offerings won’t be a problem, then again it presents a more symbiotic development for LBS ecosystem which would provide more value to end-users. So on the go, users will definitely log-on to internet to access information and it will add to the stats of internet traffic. And in this model, it presents a win-win situation to both content publishers, advertisers as well as content devourers.

3. Cost implications: Being in India, cost is a very important factor if we want to reach out to mass adoption levels. Apart from cost of GPS devices being low, the cost of these addons on networks has to be come cheap to end users. For example, as I pointed earlier, what’s needed now is free location-based services supported by advertising. But naysayers believe that it might not work since consumers consider it as obstruction to privacy and so on & so forth. But we have to bite the bullet since since we get some, we need to lose some. So users might have to lose some amount of privacy in the midst of getting geo-targeted messages which might come in handy. But that means a change of mindset which as we talk is the most basic barrier for adoption of these services. But I’m most optimistic that once users see the advatanges; it might help them take the call in favor of the trade-off.

4. Capitalist Overture: If we look at how this industry is shaping, then there’s no doubt that its future is not that murky as it may seem. Huge investments along with high-profile acquisitions are the classic signs that this sector is going to be one of the most lucrative ones in the near future. Now to make these investments viable & profitable, companies will lay out the building blocks to make profits out of it (you can say this is one of the fall-outs of capitalist overture) and make users use these services to make more & more profits which in turn will again help the overall ecosystem to grow.

As GigaOm pointed out, massive growth in these types of rich and context-relevant mobile applications will change the way consumers purchase and interact with mobile devices. Ultimately, the growth of mobile apps will help drive the device market. And while apps get even cooler over the next five years, mobile devices and data will get more accessible. Handset prices will fall, and hot devices like the iPhone, Palm Pre and netbooks will capture even more consumer attention. 3G networks will get more powerful; the demand for mobile data and connectivity will increase; and operator subscription fees will get more affordable worldwide.

So these are my presumptions about how Location-based services can prove to be the window to the next phase of Indian internet growth. Although the location-aware web isn’t showing up tomorrow or day after tomorrow for sure but as they say every big journey starts with a very small step – and we have started it for sure.

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