In 2016, lots of exciting new technology that have just been the stuff of news will start making their way into the global consumer’s homes and lives. The world looks forward to huge advances in the field of wearable computing, with many predicting that this year will finally be the year wearable technology takes over the world by storm. Self-driving cars are one step closer to making their way into people’s daily lives. The prospects for virtual reality are being finally realized, with big product launches from all the major players including Facebook (Oculus), HTC (Vive), and Sony (PlayStation). Disruptive experiments are being carried out with how content is distributed and consumed in the TV of the future, and the sharing economy is maturing.
With the global consumer all set to be bombarded by cutting edge technology, what can we, here in Nepal, expect?
Of course, those of us with connections abroad can still look forward to enjoying most of the new technology, hand-carried to us across the world.
For those of us without that option, there is still good news. Even with our insane 14 hour power cuts, we in Nepal’s technology backwaters can still look forward to some positive trends in technology.
There will be a bigger push in solar power and electric vehicles
The average Nepali is still reeling from the blockade, which slowed food and fuel supplies. People survived the winter without LPG gas for cooking or heating, and without fuel for their vehicles. Slowly, the number of electric scooters plying the roads of the capital is increasing. While the electricity authority is making power cuts more and more relentless, people who can afford it are actively looking to go off-grid. Solar power systems for the home were a huge attraction in the recently held renewable energy conference in Nepal. We look set to get on a cleaner energy pathway, one home at a time, because that really is the only option left.
Internet will be Facebook first
While Free Basics is seeing ardent opposition from activists in India, with good reason, Nepalis coming online are demonstrating where their interests lie: Facebook. New connections to the Internet are from mobile handsets, and are Facebook-first. According to research conducted by Nepal’s new ecommerce site Kaymu, 17.4% of Nepalis now have access to the internet. The percentage of people with access to Facebook? Also 17.4%. This will have huge implications for those looking to sell online to Nepalis, for magazines and news websites. In general, Facebook will have to be a large part of marketing plans for those looking to sell to Nepalis.
More broadband internet providers, cheaper high speed internet
Mercantile was the first company to provide internet service in Nepal in 1995. Today, there are more than 40 internet service providers, according to a list at the ISP association’s website. The competition among them is heating up, which can only be good news for us, consumers.
Optical fiber connections to the home have been introduced. Speeds are increasing and prices are dropping. At CAN Infotech 2016, we saw a strong showing by ISPs, with amazing promotional offers, including 1 mbps optical fiber connections for under Rs. 1,000. This trend looks set to continue, which is great news for us all.
Expect online shopping to gain traction in a real way
Online shopping outlets are mushrooming in Nepal right now. Stores that allowed overseas Nepalis to send gifts to their loved ones in Nepal such as Thamel.com and Muncha have been around for some time. Now, a new batch of stores are cropping up, whose primary consumer is the Nepali in Nepal. We now have Kaymu, NepBay, GoGazzab, ThePasal, and DealGara, that specializes in motor vehicles. HamroBazar, the craigslist of Nepal has been around for quite a while, but has finally started buzzing with activity. Apart from these, there are countless (really) facebook storefronts selling ethnic wear, jewelry, makeup, shoes, and clothes. SastoDeal started off as a deal-a-day store, and now has a full-fledged storefront.
Online stores have found a way around Nepal’s lack of a robust payment gateway – by using cash-on-delivery, and it seems to be working well. It is estimated that around 85% of e-commerce users in Nepal prefer to pay cash on delivery. Customers in large cities can already avail of the convenience of online shopping, and this trend is only set to get bigger.
Huawei goes mainstream
Who? AH, yeah, Huawei. In this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Huawei made waves with the launch of its Huawei Mate 8 smartphone, with amazing performance and incredible battery life. Despite a sales volume as high as Apple or Samsung, Huawei has not been noticed, that is, until this year. Closer to home, Huawei is definitely announcing its presence loudly. It is a major sponsor at this year’s CAN Infotech 2016, and it’s glitzy stall at the exhibition drew in huge crowds of people, both young and old. Today, you can’t escape its ubiquitous hoarding boards adorning mobile stores. In Nepal, as in the world, Huawei has finally, arrived. This is great news for us in Nepal as we can look forward to advanced technology at a price point that will put a smile on our faces.
NCell ownership changes hands, will bring new benefits
The biggest deal in Nepali history was done towards the end of last year when TeliaSonera sold its 60.4% ownership in NCell to Axiata, a Malaysian company,for over $ 1 billion. Tax issues are yet to be resolved before the deal goes through, but Axiata has also bought up shares of the other partner company for a total of 80% stake in the company. This acquisition will undoubtedly have huge repercussions for us here in Nepal. Axiata is yet to take over the reins and announce plans ahead. However, it is one of the largest telecom operators in Asia, and we might very well be able to reap the benefits of being part of their network, with better regional and roaming rates, and so on. We certainly hope so.
There will be more local content for Nepalis on Youtube
This year, Youtube created a Nepal page. Although Youtube already supported Nepali, this localized page means that Nepali users now have their own space for content that is of interest to them. When you access Youtube from Nepal, you automatically land on a page curated with videos that are trending in Nepal. That is a huge deal for content creators targeting a Nepali audience. They can be easily found in the relatively less noisy ecosystem of the Nepal page. Nepal page can be differentiated from others by “NP” embedded in the YouTube logo. We already have great local content created for Youtube, like URStyle TV. Going forward, we can expect local creators and personalities to flourish because of this.
Nepali technology companies will compete globally
Already, technology companies in Nepal are moving from doing outsourced work to creating their own products and processes. Many companies in this sector are no longer content to do menial technology work. Instead, they are innovating, and setting themselves up to compete globally. This is apparent in the exponential growth of WordPress based companies, who are creating themes and plugins targeting the global consumer. Two companies that have made a real name for themselves globally are Cloudfactory and Picovico, and their success is emboldening many others.
More homegrown tech solutions for the Nepali market
Homegrown apps have become wildly successful. There are apps like BattiGayo and Nepal Loadshedding Schedule, which fill a very real need for Nepalis, the need to know the power cut schedule of Nepal Electricity Authority. Recently, after the earthquake and the fuel crisis, apps for carpooling such as Carpool Kathmandu, and PickMe became huge hits. Payment gateways like eSewa are maturing, and finally becoming more viable. Even though the local market might not be easily monetized, there is no shortage of apps for our specific needs, and this will only grow in 2016.
The technology sector will come into its own
The technology sector in Nepal is among the most vibrant sectors of the economy. There is hunger and ambition, and a can-do attitude that has been showing results despite multiple challenges, including unavailability of fuel, skyrocketing prices, and lingering political uncertainty. The WordPress ecosystem is robust and has already resulted in a great many successful companies. Major technology events like the NCell App Camp are nurturing young talents. There are a great many hackathons and mapathons being organized, and the development sector has also shown an interest in promoting technology with support to many of these. Just in January 2016, we have already seen Hacklash Nepal, Global Game Jam , GCES IT Mahotsav in Pokhara and the regular CAN Infotech. There are also various regular meetups for WordPress and PHP, and Barcamps. Startup Weekend is also regular. With this vibrant system, newcomers with interest in the sector can easily started, and things look to gather even more momentum in 2016.