The Great Tech War In India

BY Nidhi Subbaraman
Mon Jan 23, 2012

In our last India edition of The Great Tech War of 2012 , we noted how Facebook was emerging as a clear winner. Since then, things have gotten more competitive. Here’s what’s been happening in the last few weeks.

The biggest news to affect any of the biggest tech companies concerns the regulation demands that the Indian government is considering imposing. The Indian government is backing a lawsuit that will require Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and 18 other companies to take responsibility for and remove “objectionable” content. The firms have been summoned for a Delhi court hearing in February. Meanwhile, lawyers representing Google and Facebook are seeking to have the case rejected on the grounds that it would be impossible to monitor content on the scale proposed.

Otherwise, Facebook faces a promising year ahead. As we’d noted in our previous roundup, the company had signed on a feature phone chip maker to make cheap phones Facebook-compatible, and look forward to India surpassing the U.S. as their biggest user base. Should things go south with the content rulings in India, Brazil may have their back–shortly after the new year, Facebook overtook Orkut as the social network of choice in the country. Both India and Brazil are well populated, and their Internet penetration is still growing–which means Facebook’s user pool will keep growing too.

Amazon was rumored to start operations in India some time this year, but has made no official mention of any moves so far. (Though it did expand its Chinese operations to the tune of a $95 million warehouse.) According to the Times Of India, the company has been gathering partners to launch Amazon Marketplace in India sometime this year. But as Amazon dawdles, the competition is determined. Walmart announced an expansion of their tech wing @WalmartLabs, to Bangalore. For now, the new team’s working in sync with the core crew in San Francisco on U.S.-based Walmart projects, an @WalmartLabs VP told Fast Company. But if Walmart were to look to India, the Bangalore team would be in a unique position to lead the charge there. In the meantime, Flipkart, a local e-retailer, announced a robust 2011 and high hopes for 2012. CEO Sachin Bansal told Business Standard that the company expects to grow tenfold in the next fiscal year.

Apple got off to a rocky start with their iPhone 4S in India, with critics pummeling the phone’s sky-high pricing. Apple followed that up with a surprisingly sputtery start in China. For quite a different reason, though–swelling demand in the country, but limited retail outlets sent tensions soaring on launch day. An Apple store was egged, and in-store sales of the flagship smartphone were discontinued in the country. The phone could be ordered online, but Apple’s stocks of the device has run out. Apple’s supply issues in China might give Samsung an edge over its favorite competitor during the Chinese New Year shopping sprees that begin today.

The latest of Google’s do-gooder schemes in India involved a partnership with the Wi-Fi company O-Zone to give smartphone owners free access to the Internet while in O-Zone hotspots. There was a catch, though–the free web access was only valid for access to Google+ and YouTube (for 10 minutes per week). On a slightly seedier note, there were two recent breaches in Google’s territory–the fiasco with Kenya’s Mocality, and a separate instance of vandalism on the Open Street Maps project traced back to operations associated with Google India.