Behind the curve on Metaverse

Context: Concept of Metaverse is promising immersive environments where we can do pretty much anything. Users will utilise avatars and gear like virtual/augmented reality helmets or glasses (more options will surely develop) to dive in.

But whatever the global pace of development may be, India may well be behind the curve

Must Read: What is Metaverse? – Explained, pointwise
What are the future projections wrt Metaverse?

Citibank guesstimates the metaverse may generate between $8 trillion and $13 trillion worth of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, with 5 billion users.

In 2020, global GDP was $85 trillion and the global economy is expected to grow at near 3 per cent annually.

So, if Citi’s projections range close to reality, the metaverse could be worth between 7 and 12% of global GDP by 2030, and roughly 51% of the population would be residents (or at least regular visitors).

What needs to happen for these projections to approach reality?

Hyper fast communication infra: The metaverse won’t work unless it’s a seamless environment available on the move. This means hyper-fast mobile networks carrying huge data and of course, devices to ride the networks. There’s an enormous technological gap and the infrastructure doesn’t exist.

Requirement of 6G: Even the best 5G networks can’t deliver what metaverse promises. 6G is needed. It’s being taken for granted that the required telecom infrastructure will be rolled out quickly. There are many nations, including India, which don’t possess commercial 5G. India is yet to hold 5G spectrum auctions, so it’ll be a while before 5G rollout.

Meta-virtual passports: The metaverse will not be a single environment. There will be different metaverses developed by different service providers. Users will need “meta-virtual” passports to move from one to another and interoperability and compatibility between metaverses will be required. Money, or tokens will be needed to do commercial stuff.

How is India positioned to take advantage of the concept of Metaverse?

Large user base: India has a potentially large user-base. On a per capita basis, Indians consume the most data in the world. The willingness to move to the metaverse would be high.

The average Indian is also very value-conscious, since he or she doesn’t have a great deal of money. If there were fast 5G (and 6G) rollouts and data charges were reasonable, India would have a big metaverse population.

Skilled workforce: There’s also a pool of skilled developers, with imaginations. There’s potential for desi themed metaverses — whether it’s temples, cricket stadiums, concerts with avatars, or CGI games based on desi themes.

What are the challenges that India needs to address?

Presently, India has a regulatory system that’s terrified of cryptocurrencies, and a ridiculously complex system of goods and services tax (GST) compliance.

If metaverse service providers have to provide GST certification on every transaction, their software development skills will be focussed on payment solutions rather than immersive environments.

Also, if the government takes an 18% cut upfront from start-ups, most such businesses will not get off the ground. Finally, data leaks could be catastrophic and India doesn’t have data protection legislation

Interoperability issues: Desi metaverses will not have interoperability with overseas metaverses. Desis will also find it hard to use global metaverses with crypto-based payment systems.

Other issues: India is two years behind in terms of telecom infrastructure, the cryptocurrency policy is wrong-headed, and the tax compliance is painfully cumbersome.

Source: This post is based on the article “Behind the curve on Metaverse” published in the Business Standard on 22nd Apr 22.

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