I gave a talk (rather, was more of a discussion) on Digital Media Business Models at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai yesterday, to students pursuing a combined course in Engineering and Management. Was pleasantly surprised to find most students aware of developments in the digital media space – someone asked me why IPTV hasn’t yet taken off. 

There were around 50 students at the discussion, I thought I’d share some of the observations here:

— They were all (and I mean ALL) on both Facebook and Orkut. All had heard of Ibibo, a few of Minglebox (forgot to ask about BIGAdda).
— Facebook is their preferred social network. All of them use Facebook applications, but change applications often – they get bored with them quickly
— They haven’t noticed any advertisements on Orkut (not even the text ads), but have noticed and even clicked on Facebook advertisements.
— From a business perspective, most of them didn’t think the number of registered users is of any consequence – active users matter more.
— All of them use the Internet to research before purchasing goods, but prefer to buy offline.
— Only one student used the Internet to buy electronics online…and that too from China.
— They’ve all used the Internet for buying tickets, one or two to buy books.
— They appeared to be more keen on Internet business models than Mobile
— Many subscribe to MyToday and SMS GupShup. One student felt that SMS GupShup’s recent fundraising meant that their business model is good. They feel that the fact that MyToday and SMS GupShup have such a large user base means that advertisers will be interested in them, and this model will succeed.
— Less than half of them use Caller Ringback Ringback tones, but they were aware of the cost of the service.
— A few of the students were interested in starting up, and a few who have been working on a business plan.
— Some of the students were wondering about how much of their plans they should disclose to VCs or Angel Investors. I suggested that they study the VCs portfolio first, and be careful about VCs sharing their plans with portfolio companies who may be potential competitors.  

Update: almost forgot – only one of them is on Twitter. 

The most promising sign: a majority of them use mobile Internet. Apart from a couple of students who began a year or two ago, most have been using Mobile Internet for six months, largely because the monthly rental was waived off.

I’m probably hosting another discussion soon at a college in Delhi, so if there’s anything you’d like to know about how students are using the Internet or mobile, do leave a comment, and I’ll ask them.

Also, if any of you are looking to hire freshers, do have your HR Manager drop me a note at nikhil AT medianama DOT com, and I’ll pass on the contact details to the colleges.
P.s.: just in case you’re wondering – this is pro-bono.