PHONE vs PC
In 2010, Morgan Stanley estimates, smart phones will outsell notebooks and netbooks around the world; by 2012, they will overtake the entire global personal computer market—notebooks, netbooks and desktops included. The mobile Internet wave seems unstoppable. An earlier Morgan Stanley report illustrates this: It took pioneering Internet browser Netscape nine quarters to grab 11 million customers, but it took Apple Inc. a mere three quarters to get the first 11 million customers for its iPhone and iPod Touch hardware. NTT DoCoMo Inc.’s I-Mode signed up 25 million customers in nine quarters. The mobile Internet wave is thus far bigger than the spread of the original PC-based Internet. One big factor is the availability of high-speed 3G telecom networks, which should be in place in India—already a country hooked on mobile phones—by the end of 2010.
Source: Paul Kedrosky, Morgan Stanley
GREEN vs GREY
Last June, the United Nations calculated that green energy had received more funding than fossil-fuel projects in 2008—the first time this ever happened. Wind, solar and other breeds of cleaner technology drew investments of $140 billion, while coal- and gas-based power plants received $110 billion. “There have been many milestones reached in recent years, but this…suggests renewable energy has now reached a tipping point where it is as important—if not more important—in the global energy mix than fossil fuels,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN’s Environment Programme, was quoted as saying in The Guardian. The financial crisis has proven a setback to green investments, but expect that situation to change in 2010 as the financing climate gets balmier.
Source: The United Nations Environmental Programme and The Guardian
TWEETS vs POKES
Twitter came into its own during the popular upsurge against the verdict in the June election in Iran. There were street protests, but there were also protests in 140 characters. Twitter traffic had already shot up from 9.8 million in February to 19.1 million in March. The online traffic measurement firm comScore said in August that the microblogging site attracted at least 50 million unique visitors in July. That means Twitter had added nearly 7.5 million new visitors a month, and by the close of 2009, its traffic inched close to 100 million visitors. In comparison, Facebook has 350 million users. Watch to see if Twitter’s growth tapers off in 2010, or whether it closes the gap with Facebook. The very future of social media is at stake.
Source: comScore, Mint research
FINANCE vs MICROFINANCE
It isn’t just because the coming year promises the first of many microfinance initial public offerings (IPOs) that 2010 could be the year of microfinance. But it could be a year of sizzle or a year of fizzle. The business of lending small amounts to the poor has been growing at explosive rates. Bank lending to self-help groups now reaches 60 million households, and the value of outstanding loans is Rs24,000 crore. Stand-alone microfinance institutions alone have lent around Rs12,000 crore in 2009. It will be little surprise, then, if these institutions overtake bank lending in 2010. Microfinanciers have doubled their lending in previous years as well; in fact, the Indian microfinance industry has grown by a factor of 13 between 2005 and 2009. Boom or bubble? We’ll know soon enough.
Source: Institute for Financial Management and Research
NORTH vs SOUTH
The balance of global economic power is tilting. In October 2008, the International Monetary Fund predicted that the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of developing countries, measured in terms of purchasing power parity, would exceed that of developed countries in 2013. That crossover year may now have advanced, given the sluggish economic recovery in rich countries and the stronger rebounds in the developing world. Watch the gap close to a whisker in 2010—and, as a result, more jostling for seats at the high table of global governance.
Source: International Monetary Fund, Euromonitor
FARM vs FACTORY
In 2010, for the first time, India’s factories will produce more than its farms. Immediately after 1947, agriculture was five times the size of manufacturing, but industry has quickened its pace since then. But therein lies a rub: Six out of every 10 Indians still depend on low-growth farming for part of their income, a sure-shot catalyst for growing inequality. The rural economy needs to diversify. Here, too, an important transition is in the offing. Almost half of rural incomes now come from non-farm activities as families cut their exposure to volatile, sluggish farming incomes, and invest in small production units and shops in the villages.
Source: Reserve Bank of India
WHEAT vs WHEELS
In 1985, Indians on an average spent Rs65 out of every Rs100 in their monthly budget on the bare necessities: food and shelter. They divided the remaining Rs35 between healthcare, education, recreation and household products. That split is now 40:60, which means that Indians spend much less than half of their family budgets on the basics. In 2007, McKinsey and Co. estimated that spending on the good things in life would increase to 70% of total consumption in 2025. This is inevitable. Most countries have similar experiences as they grow richer, and we just need to look around to see people spending more on gadgets, cars, school fees, medicines and movie tickets. But 2010 could provide a sting in the tail. Food prices are climbing at an annualized rate of 20%. So will more expensive food push other items off family budgets?
Source: Central Statistical Organisation, McKinsey and Co.
Illustrations by Shyamal Banerjee