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June 8-10, 2022
Singapore EXPO



Hi Shiv, please introduce yourself.

My name is Shiv Putcha and I am the Founder and Principal Analyst at Mandala Insights, a boutique market research firm focused on the Next Billion digital opportunities in Asia. I have been working in the telecoms and mobility industry for over 20 years, with over half of those spent as an industry analyst. Covering the rapid pace of change in the broader technology industry and the increasingly important role of connectivity in post Covid19 times has been both challenging and inspiring at the same time. 

What are some criteria that you’ll be looking out for the awards?

One of the primary criteria will be the degree, pace and quality of innovation brought to bear by the company involved. The second criteria will be the business value and benefit that can be unlocked as a result of the innovations in question.

Asia is ripe with digitalization opportunities, which are some countries we should be looking out for and why?

Asia is a very large and diverse region. My focus has been on emerging and middle-income countries that are rapidly industrializing and looking at digital transformation opportunities to catapult them to the cutting edge of productivity and profitability. To this extent, the countries of focus are China and India for the sheer scale of population and the challenges that such scale throws up for digital services; Korea and Japan as benchmark economies that are pushing the envelope on Industry 4.0, robotics and other opportunities; and markets like Thailand and Indonesia in the ASEAN region that are throwing up very region and market specific solutions to problems.

How has COVID-19 impacted digital?

By now, every conversation related to tech or the general economy can be tied back to the impacts of the Covid19 pandemic that has swept the world. My specific coverage areas of telecoms and mobility have also been impacted dramatically.

The pandemic and the resulting lockdowns have forced people indoors, with little to do and a lot of time on their hands. Predictably, most people have gone online, in work from home (WFH) mode, in online classroom mode, or for casual browsing on steroids. The resulting Internet traffic spikes have been significant across the board, irrespective of region, country or even at a city level. Telecom networks have largely held up, either on their own merits or with luck, duct tape, and Superglue, though they have been forced to trim customer care and other operations down to the bare minimum. Overall, they have managed, in conjunction with their network vendor partners, to keep the lights on. Payments have largely switched to online payment methods, either through net banking. Prepaid balance validity periods have been extended, as well as free incoming calling and a host of other benefits.

One of the biggest learnings from the lockdown is that all assumptions about traffic patterns and network planning go out the window. People are no longer mobile so their traffic will tend to skew towards “hotspots” and become more consistent throughout the day. That is, traffic becomes more “localized” and there are potentially several mobile cell sites that have seen dramatic increases in terms of capacity load and several that have seen decreases. Moreover, there is no “peak hour” traffic anymore…people are on all the time. Where possible, capacity has been increased at traffic hotspots to handle the surge in traffic. But without fresh (and even temporary) allocations of spectrum, it would not be possible to add capacity, especially in crowded urban areas. As a result, the telcos are certainly under strain and the impact can already be felt with reduced speeds and faint signals.

One silver lining coming out of all this. As the region begins to slowly limp back to a semblance of normalcy, we are still looking at a fundamentally different world coming out on the other side. People’s appreciation of connectivity and the premium they are willing to pay for this will be renewed. Building and operating a telecom network is tough, gritty and at the best of times, a thankless business, no more or less so than the plumbing networks that take our refuse to dark, dank corners. Both are vital, essential but also taken for granted!

One of my biggest takeaways from the Covid19 induced lockdown was the startling rise in “digital literacy” of several people and the impact this has had on online business models. Since the early days of the lockdown, people of all stripes have “discovered” Zoom and other online collaboration tools. The tech industry as a whole has always been more comfortable with the whole work from home (WFH) model as well as with online collaboration tools, but now this comfort has spread to other parts of the economy, forced or embraced. Several online aggregators and platforms have pivoted rapidly to take advantage of this new digital literacy during the lockdown. A great example is Bookmyshow in India, which quickly pivoted from a ticketing and events aggregation platform to one that also hosted live and recorded events.

Digital literacy has also been force-fed to our children in recent weeks. Schools were the first casualty of Covid19, with schools across the region shutting down. Since then, some schools have been very proactive and moved quickly to adopt an online learning model to tide over the disruptions, with platforms like Zoom and Google Classroom quickly become the online teaching platforms of choice.

On the whole, this period has been a remarkable testament to how adaptable human beings are, and with the crop of technology tools at our disposal today, it has become so much easier to cope. The heightened adoption of digital platforms by individuals, organizations as well Government agencies is welcome. But it does come with a potentially hard trade-off with privacy? How secure are these new platforms and applications? Who controls the data and where does it reside? How aggressive should Governments be when tracking their citizens? Where do we draw the line between public health considerations and the privacy of the individual citizen? In an ideal world, these questions would not be viewed as mutually exclusive, but these are exceptional and challenging times.

Will ConnecTechAsia be the first fully virtual event you’ll be attending/speaking at? How do you feel about the show going virtual?

No, this will not be the first fully virtual event that I am attending/speaking at. In the short term, virtual event is a necessity though in my personal opinion, it is not a substitute for in person meetings. One of the major reasons is the one-directional nature of most of these events and an inability to network.

Finally, what do you like doing in your spare time?

In my spare time, I am an avid reader, yoga enthusiast and tennis player. Of course, I must confess that I would drop everything to watch a football game and one that features my favourite club, Liverpool FC. 

Learn more about the awards and meet judge Shiv Putcha at ConnecTechAsia 2020, happening 29th September - 1st October. Register your visit here