Why The Recent Infosys/Airtel Deal Is A Glimpse Into The Future Of IT Services

Infosys announced last week that Bharti Airtel, India’s leading mobile service provider, has selected its WalletEdge platform to operate Airtel Money, the first mobile wallet service in India. This announcement is interesting from a few different perspectives. First, it will provide a new source of revenues for the Indian telecom industry, which has been struggling with low ARPUs for several years. Second, it’s a boon for the banking industry, which will find a way to accelerate financial inclusion initiatives in line with the recommendations from the Reserve Bank of India. Obviously, the urban Indian consumer will also benefit from the “pay anytime, anywhere” convenience of such a service.

I also look at this deal from an IT services industry perspective, and I believe that it embeds a set of very interesting attributes that will become increasingly prevalent in the way IT services vendors engage with their clients moving forward:

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Emerging Asia Will Be A Hotbed For ICT Sector M&A Throughout 2012

In their Asia Pacific Tech Market Outlook For 2012 report, Andrew Bartels and Frederic Giron show that government and business IT spending in the emerging markets of Asia (including China, India, and the ASEAN countries) will reach US$180 billion in 2012, growing by roughly 13% over 2011. While emerging Asia’s IT spending is surging this year, economic obligations in the developed markets of North America, Europe, and Japan will ensure continued austerity — and limited IT spending growth. In other words, emerging Asia is clearly a lucrative region of opportunities for US, European, Japanese, and South Korean vendors looking for new sources of growth to offset lower business prospects in their home markets.

Asia is a region of highly disparate countries, with regulatory complexity, cultural differences, and a limited pool of skilled resources. These barriers to entry and expansion will compel vendors to look beyond organic growth, which is simply too time-intensive. Instead, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) of local/regional incumbents with local know-how, skills, and client relationships will increasingly be a strategic imperative for vendors targeting emerging Asia. I’ve highlighted some examples from the Indian market below, but I foresee similar trends in the overall ICT sector throughout emerging Asia:

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