Thursday, March 28, 2019
Vivan Sharan moderates panel on "Specialisaiton vs. Scale: What work for Indian M&E?" at FICCI FRAMES, March 2019
vs. Scale: What works for Indian M&E?
M&E space is in the throes of transition. Production processes are becoming
increasingly specialized as a result of technological changes and fragmentation
of global supply chains. Simultaneously, convergence and consolidation are
driving the need for creative businesses to achieve scale, to reach more
consumers and remain export-competitive in global markets. The panel will
debate how stakeholders in the Indian creative economy, including within civil
society and government, should balance these imperatives.
Vivan Sharan, Partner, Koan Advisory Group
Arun Thapar, Head of Content, A+E Networks
Shohini Sengupta, Fellow,
Shreyas Srinivasan, Founder and CEO, Insider.in
Dinraj Shetty, Director, Digital Sales, licensing and Business
Development, Sony Music Entertainment
Karan Ahluwalia, Senior President and Country Head, M&E,
Fine Arts, Luxury and Sports Banking Group, Yes Bank
Koan Advisory experts blog about various sessions held at FICCI FRAMES 2019, for the Motion Pictures Association.
The blogs can be found at this link:
The blogs can be found at this link:
The submission can be found here:
Twitter furore shows need to empower local executives, Vivan Sharan and Trishi Jindal, Mint, 12 February 2019
Original link: https://www.livemint.com/opinion/online-views/opinion-twitter-furore-shows-need-to-empower-local-executives-1549991606777.html
The quicker technology companies operating in India realize the merits of empowering their local executives, the faster the Indian digital economy will come of age. Technology regularly outpaces regulation globally, necessitating nuanced debates between industry and government in every major jurisdiction, and therefore, decision-making agility on both sides. Additionally, India has a complex digital culture that doesn’t easily lend itself to quick fixes by government or industry. This is evident in the case of ongoing discussions on regulating social media platforms that are marred by the lack of a solutions-oriented approach on either side.
India’s Standing Committee on Information Technology recently summoned Twitter to testify before it on matters relating to “safeguarding citizen’s rights on social media platforms". This ostensibly followed from a protest lodged with the committee on selective censorship of political views online. Though some local Twitter officials did appear before the committee this week, the company had initially sought a deferment citing short notice and reportedly submitted that “no one who engages publicly for Twitter India makes enforcement decisions". If reports are true, the submission is a rare and candid admission that local executives are not empowered to negotiate their own interests.
In the past, policymakers were predominantly concerned with providing access to the internet, which led to many debates on privatization of information infrastructure. Good sense prevailed in letting private sector investments flourish, precipitating a virtuous cycle of greater connectivity and consumer access. While India still has millions of “digital have-nots"—individuals who remain unconnected—it also has a substantial infrastructural backbone with close to half a billion broadband users expected to come online before 2020.
A corollary of exponentially greater consumer access to the internet is that policymakers must now contend with much more complexity in digital markets, a reality that industry executives must also empathise with. Moreover, the government’s under-preparedness to manage new challenges at the intersection of technology and society may prompt overregulation of new markets. Where the internet was meant to liberate society as a force removed from it, it now appears closer to a manifestation of many of the ills of society, such as hate speech and violent extremism, phenomena that are particularly concentrated on social media. While curtailing online speech would be antithetical to democratic values, global companies must recognize local context. Online speech is largely unregulated in advanced jurisdictions because of better state-capacity to deal with negative outcomes offline.
Tech scholars like Daphne Keller have characterized internet policies today as fighting poorly defined harms with remedies that remain untested. Indian policymakers have been unable to pinpoint the nature and quantum of harms caused through social media platforms. To wit, there is no official report on the mechanics of lynch mobs—how are they triggered, how online misinformation campaigns are funded, or even what role political actors play, if any. Equally, adequate remedies such as the balancing of stricter enforcement with institutional and legal safeguards for protecting free speech and expression are rarely discussed within government.
Protectionism adds another dimension to the mix of new digital policy questions that are only just being addressed. Recent debates on e-commerce policies, data protection laws, and regulation of online intermediaries, characterize this dimension. How do we protect interests of domestic companies without being brazenly discriminatory? Should we look at global standards to mould domestic templates for internet governance? Or should we forge our own prescriptive and exceptional regulatory norms in isolation?
Local executives of global companies can play an important role in resolving such questions from their informed vantage points. They have line of sight on the dynamic landscape of global markets. Simultaneously, they are well-placed to leverage global exposure to the cutting-edge of internet governance. Instead, most such executives are compelled to take conservative positions in India and resist any hint of enhanced government interface, even as their global counterparts engage in serious debates in the US and EU. Consequently, the Indian state acts in its limited self-interest by overregulating what it feels it can’t control.
Equally, it is about time that the state recognizes that not all solutions can come from within. Some global companies have shown the ability to propose and implement practical solutions to local challenges. For instance, government-industry dialogue has led to the adoption of a Code of Best Practices by nine large online curated content firms this January. The code redoubles industry commitment to protecting kids from accessing adult content. Transparent self-regulation can protect free speech and promote plurality of opinions, whereas prescriptive government regulation almost always leads to excessive censorship. Proactive standard-setting must be welcomed as a first wave of corporate enlightenment in digital India, a wave that can truly lift all boats by securing values shared by policymakers, industry and citizens.
Vivan Sharan & Trishi Jindal are technology policy experts at Koan Advisory Group, New Delhi. Views are personal.
Digitalization has rapidly altered the contours of the Indian economy, especially in terms of improved consumer access to goods and services. Tens of millions of new participants have been added to digital markets through the expansion of telecom and internet services in 2018. In the midst of this feverish activity, confusion persists over what constitutes a definitive and durable vision for a digital India—exemplified by debates on why Indian companies struggle to generate value within domestic digital markets.
China has about 15 times as many unicorns—billion-dollar startups—as India does, despite the fact that the Chinese economy is 2.5 times that of India’s in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) adjusted to purchasing power parity. Such asymmetry of outcomes reflects in global comparisons too. India has some of the lowest average revenues per user in telecom markets despite some of the highest data consumption volumes in the world, and a tiny subscription market for digital products such as audiovisual services, which is dwarfed by small countries such as Singapore.
Value creation tends to involve innovation in the production of goods and services that people are willing to pay for. Naturally, intellectual property must lie at the heart of this process, finely balanced alongside consumer access. However, a form of “digital socialism" seems to have manifested itself in India’s digital economy discourse as a panacea for the lack of value. This school of thought seems to emphasize a large role for state intervention in redistributing the value created in digital markets, which largely resides in data.
The desire for state intervention is most visible in regulatory consultations on areas such as data protection and licensing of online applications, parts of which focus on treating all data as a public good. Ongoing discussions lack nuance in differentiating between the implications of unrestricted access to government data and private data. China is naturally a source of inspiration for those who evangelise the benefits of state-intervention to actualise what is essentially an over-broad interpretation of the notion of “open data".
Admittedly, China’s micromanaged market growth has been nothing short of astonishing. The country accounted for just under 4% of world GDP in 1991 and now accounts for 15%. Mandating data-sharing is not dissimilar to mandated joint ventures in China’s industrial ecosystem. However, both dilute incentives to innovation and lower chances of safeguarding privately held intellectual property. It is important to recall that China appropriated space in the global economy from emerging markets such as India. Conversely, countries with a strong culture for innovation and monetization of intellectual property such as the US have held on to their share. The US has consistently accounted for around 25% of global GDP despite China’s swift rise over the last three decades.
It is likely that if India lowers its focus on incentivizing and safeguarding innovation in favour of creating an unqualified and unfettered open data ecosystem, China will be its biggest beneficiary.
Chinese firms are already dominating India’s digital markets, from devices to online applications. And the modus operandi of China’s digital giants strongly resembles that of its manufacturing giants. China’s industry majors are offloading their excess capacity in India and focusing on extracting incremental value. For instance, Chinese smartphone brands account for a two-third market share in India—and seem to be the biggest beneficiaries of India’s aspirational consumption. Similarly, the imposition of digital socialism will not deter China’s cash-rich online giants from extracting value from India’s digital markets— consonant with its expansionist Belt and Road Initiative.
The fact is that Chinese businesses will willingly acquiesce in over-regulation in return for a captive market. They have had more than a practice run at embracing the notion of state-controlled digital economy. So, how should India prevent Chinese colonisation of its digital markets, and build focus on creating competitive IP-based digital ecosystem that delivers both access and value?
Value creation will require a fresh policy mindset in 2019. A point of departure could be to better understand how countries such as the US have retained their economic strength in times of global flux. Part of the answer lies in the correlation between trade and intellectual property (IP). The US accounts for around one-third share of global IP exports—far outpacing China, which does not even figure in the top ten IP exporters despite frenetic patenting activity. While China has understood the need for more IP, its markets remain state-controlled.
Nevertheless, it is axiomatic that innovation-centricity impacts the realization of economic value. In 2018, researchers found that while less than 10% of US manufacturing firms made IP filings, those that did accounted for 90% of its total merchandise exports. The nexus between innovation and competitiveness is universal. A balanced vision for domestic digital markets must therefore reflect the centrality of incentivizing and protecting innovation. And to be clear, this will require active state support in the entire spectrum of innovation, from engendering a culture of research to stronger enforcement of IP.
Vivan Sharan is a technology policy expert and partner at Koan Advisory Group, New Delhi.
Koan Advisory's response to TRAI's public consultation on regulatory framework for OTT communications services, January 2019
The submission can be viewed at the following URL on TRAI's website:
The submission can be viewed at this link:
Koan Advisory's counter-comments to Public Consultation on Draft National Policy on Electronics, November 2018
The file can be accessed at the following google drive link: