The Global Mobile Internet Conference, Bangalore

First posted on my personal blog Quixotic Semiotic

When I first heard about the GMIC, let’s just say I got pretty damn excited because after years of sitting in front a desk coding, I actually had an opportunity to go and listen to the bee’s knees of startups in the country. Mom, dad, look at me now: I’m the fancy mover and shaker who attends conferences and hands out business cards. The line-up of speakers was impressive at first glance – all the bigwigs with a few firangs thrown in for good measure. The price tag was impressive as well, $100 for a silver pass, but I guess even the organizers knew they’d be staring down a sea of empty seats with that kind of pricing. Basically, everyone and their mother got a free pass or an 80% discount (like I did) or a kind upgrade to gold (which I also got).

On the actual day of the event, I got in pretty late, so I missed the first panel with arguably the biggest names of the conference (Sachin Bansal, Naveen Tewari, Vikram Chandra). By the time I did get into the conference hall though, there was a live band playing “Tonight I’m Lovin’ you” (I kept hearing the dirty version in my head) and this was accompanied by weird disco lights. Hello, nightclub or conference? Are these things usually like this?

All the keynote speakers who were supposed to talk about seemingly interesting topics like “Big Opportunities in Emerging Markets” and “Wearables 2.0: The Next Wave” used the poor captive audience to evangelize their own companies and products instead. If I really wanted to hear about their annual revenues and growth rates, I would have googled that shit. Stick to the brief people. As a product manager, how does it help me to know about your entire suite of products? I came here to learn about industry trends and to learn from the unique experiences of these hugely successful companies. Instead, I came back wishing I hadn’t just blown a million litres of petrol going 20 kilometres each way. The CEO of the APUS Group (who?) jabbered away in rapid Mandarin and all I heard at the end of a long, mostly boring monologue was “investing blah million blah in India”. Cue claps.

The Indians were slightly better but not by much. Rohit Bansal and Kunal Shah were on the panel talking about “Revolutionizing Mobile Services” but really, it kind of reminded me of my mom complaining about kids and technology (Rohit Bansal, I’m looking at you). “Arre, children nowadays know how to use an iPhone before they even start talking. Itne fast hai ye bacche aaj kal”. Like dude. You guys are CEOs of huge-ass companies. Throw us a bone and give us something of value, would you? Or at least something other than generic platitudes we’re all aware of? At least Kunal Shah was funny, I’ll give him that. But I didn’t hear a single thing that I hadn’t already heard before. “Mobile is growing”. Yes, we knew that. Where’s the revolution we’re talking about? What is the next big thing? Crickets.

The panel about “Monetizing on Mobile” was marginally better. Dude called Alex Qian went on about dogs, cats, pigs and donkeys (something about advertisers and publishers), weirdest analogy I’ve heard in a while. Then they went off on a tangent about how the Chinese are gamblers and Indians are saints with tightly zipped pockets. But I’m not complaining too much since they were at least mildly entertaining. A special mention also to the very out of place lady emceeing the entire event. Did she get lost on her way to hosting a Bollywood dance show? The exhibitors hanging around outside seemed to think they were at a music concert, the freaking music was so loud, I couldn’t hear a thing the people on stage were saying. But hey, it woke me up from time to time, and they seemed to be having more fun than I was so power to them.

If I had to describe the day in one word: FAFF. Yes, this is my new favourite word buddies in Bangalore have taught me. This word actually exists in the dictionary it seems (surprise, surprise). It means “a great deal of ineffectual activity”. Spot on.

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