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Google India MD Appointed IAMAI Chairman; A Look At IAMAI In 2008-09

(By Preethi J & Nikhil Pahwa)

Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has appointed Shailesh Rao, Managing Director of Google India as its Chairman, who will be taking over from Sanjeev Bikhchandani, MD of Info Edge (Naukri). eBay India’s country manager Ambareesh Murty has been appointed Vice-Chairperson of the IAMAI, and Sanjay Aggarwal, GM (Operations) for IRCTC has been moved from the post of Vice Chairman to Treasurer and will be pushing e-commerce to the forefront.

Rao has accurately pointed out that IAMAI needs to build a more visible identity and collective vision for the Internet industry of India. The association is in the process of preparing a digital IT vision document, the spokesperson told Medianama. We will be asking Rao to elaborate on this and will update this post.

Last year, the IAMAI had set itself the following targets:

1. Building bridges and partnerships with relevant government agencies
2. Broadband penetration
3. Better terms of business for online publishers and mobile content and services industry

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Significant Developments In 2008-09

According to the IAMAIs annual report:

– The association had teamed up with first Google and then National Internet Exchange of India to pilot an awareness program amongst school children. It has covered 50,000 students and plans to reach out to half a million students next year.
– Facilitated an agreement between publisher members of IAMAI and Advertising Agencies Association of India [AAAI] on payment recovery.
– Four courses relating to the digital business have been developed and will be offered commercially from May 2009.
– Engaged with TRAI, RBI and the IT department for policy changes.
– Pushed for low cost VoIP by allowing termination of IP calls on PSTN lines but the government deferred its decision.
– Compliance to the “Do Not Disturb” registry – IAMAI became the default agency for connecting non-member companies with TRAI for compliance.

It appears that the IAMAI has met most of its goals for 2008-09.

E-Commerce Thrust

Growing the e-commerce market will be one of the primary goals of the association this year, the spokesperson said. The main theme will be to grow the market and educate users. The association will begin discussions with RBI and banks this year and will be publishing a whitepaper. Members of IAMAI decided that since most Internet firms are e-commerce in nature, their market needs to be expanded. The action began last year when the first meeting was held on the subject but this year is when we can expect to see some results.

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What The IAMAI Can Do Better

— Become More Representative

IAMAI was founded in 2004, and has only 77 members. As on March 31, 2007, they had 42 members which grew to 67 in 2008. On its site, the company has a directory of 228 Internet companies, 25 bloggers and podcasters, 98 mobile value added service providers, 74 startups and 18 investors in India, who are registered on their database and are not members. IAMAI’s spokesperson told us that the association would recruit more members this year but was unable to reveal the target.

— Support Start Ups And New Entrepreneurs

The IAMAI is more of a clique of large Internet companies in India, with very little on offer as support to new entrepreneurs and startups in the ecosystem: this may have been on the agenda for the IAMAI a couple of years ago, but Headstart and Proto are doing much more in terms of handholding and showcasing. The IAMAI spokesperson told MediaNama that its members are mostly established companies, and that the IAMAI only aids startups indirectly: they receive the advantages from the association’s lobbying with the government. This is an industry that thrives on innovation, and the IAMAI would do well to bring together investors, startups and incubators.

— Be More Careful With Its Reports

Outside observers often take the word of an industry body as the norm, and the IAMAI should not have lent its name to, and publicised a report like this one on Vernacular Content in India, prepared by IMRB International. The report and the press release claimed that there are only 1249 Indian language websites in India (including blogs and communities), and this is incorrect because it took into consideration only 8 Indian languages online. Worse, they ignored a language like Malayalam, which has a significant online presence. Of course, most of the newspapers and websites that published the press release didn’t even bother to look at the report.

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In case you have any suggestions for the IAMAI and the newly appointed Chairman, please do share. Last year, Ananya Cooper had left quite a few interesting suggestions in the comments to this post.

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