The next frontier in India’s digital revolution, the Metaverse, has arrived and is actively disrupting the way we live, work, socialize, and more. It is no longer a figment of science fiction imagination but is a virtual universe offering the opportunity for users to interact with each other and with AI-powered environments in real-time. 

The potential is tremendous; it is revolutionizing industries and processes and we’ve barely just tapped into it. 

In India, the Metaverse is likely to be a $1.1 trillion market by 2032, despite the unique challenges and roadblocks that are presenting themselves at present. From education and training, to gaming, entertainment, and commerce, the Metaverse shall leave no stone unturned and no vertical untouched. 

India has a rich cultural heritage and strong tradition and spirit of innovation, making it well-positioned to take advantage of the prospects that the Metaverse presents. 

Global Talent Exchange, in collaboration with NASSCOM Insights, organized a virtual roundtable discussion on “Metaverse In India: A Glimpse Into The Future” as part of our Technology Game Changers Series. 

We intended to bring together a group of illustrious personalities and tech leaders to discuss how this transformative and enthralling concept can open up doors to new opportunities and how India can rise to the challenge and seize them. 

The session was moderated by Achyuta Ghosh (Research Head At NASSCOM). He has over 19 years of professional experience in analytics, research, and consulting. He is an active technology evangelist and has assisted Fortune 500 companies and investors with strategic insights on digital transformation, and its impact on business strategy, the future of work, and global sourcing.

The esteemed panel was made up of 9 visionaries, who each contributed valuably to the discussion by combining their rich industry experience as well as their insights and viewpoints. 

While the session was a closed-door one, here’s a rundown of the key points that were made. 

The dialogue was kick-started by a note from Achyuta on why this is the correct time to talk about the Metaverse and the Indian opportunity. He laid out the key drivers of the revolution- an increase in communication and connectivity, the shift in user mindset, a younger demographic and the GenZ audience, more potential use cases, consumer-led brand marketing, and a drastic enhancement of investments in this space. 

It was pointed out that everyone seems to be clinging to their own definition of what the Metaverse actually is- is it a technology, a concept, or a combination of several ideologies? 
There are several components of it- there’s the VR aspect, the gaming - which is the interactive aspect of it, the social collaboration aspect, communication, and Web3- which is the economy part. It’s also important to note that there are many Metaverses in the world, many universes to explore. 
First and foremost, the panelists took to discussing the vast variety of use cases of the Metaverse and the real-world applications and answering the lingering question: Is the hype around it justified? 

The Metaverse, this online virtual reality space, has a major role to play in bringing people together- especially in the aftermath of Covid-19. More and more workplaces have adopted a remote or hybrid working model, and building an office on the Metaverse can ensure that people can continue communicating as they would offline and continue to collaborate and brainstorm. People need to feel like they are part of a tribe and it enables a community-based culture, which is very important. Another crucial way for businesses to utilize it to enhance their processes is customer support and enhancing the end-user experience. 

It was brought up that there is, perhaps, not a single industry that isn’t dabbling in the Web3 space and experimenting with its own Metaverse use cases; be it entertainment, retail, hospitality, broadcasting, R&D, etc. Factory 4.0, for example, is leveraging this online space to a large extent and even gaining impressive ROIs. This just goes to show that it’s possible; the right steps haven’t been taken by the others as yet. 

The moderator, i.e., Achyuta Ghosh, talked about a NASSCOM Insights study on the use cases of the Metaverse and how they were able to narrow it down to 4 categories. The first is the customers, wherein it can be used for increasing engagement, marketing, multi-channel support, and token-based interactions. The second was the employee category, wherein the Metaverse can be used for learning and development, immersive recruitment, and augmented workplace collaboration. The third was the enterprises and the fourth was the suppliers, where the Metaverse could be used for production, design, and building a collaborative ecosystem. 

However, where there is an opportunity- that too at this large a scale- there are bound to be some hurdles and challenges. Here’s what was pointed out. 

People seem to be having too many expectations from the Metaverse- to the point where we’ve stepped way ahead in the future without pausing to reflect on what could be made possible at the present moment. Everyone seems to be talking about it, but the execution is suffering and that’s a major challenge that must be overcome at the earliest. 

The panelists shared their own experiences of visiting different Metaverses and drew out how the space lacked regulation. While there is work being done to regulate the environment, at present people take advantage of the anonymity and misbehave in the virtual world. 

Moreover, the huge challenge of it being such a new and different concept was brought up. There is a drastic learning curve attached to it and it needs to be simplified if adoption is to be accelerated. Awareness is essential in such a case. People need to also be educated on the myths surrounding the Metaverse; there is a wide assumption that it can only be accessed via a VR headset and glasses, and that’s an age-old concept that must be eradicated. 
Most importantly, there is the massive tech readiness problem. Latency, bandwidth, video quality, buffering times, and more, stand in the way of widespread acceptance and continue broadening the gap and solidifying the entry barrier. 

The Metaverse will only be what we envision it to be when these basic challenges are resolved- only then can we explore the other use cases. 

The focus was then shifted to the India-specific scenario and the Indian opportunity. How does the country’s story differ from the global outlook? How is our growth journey faring? Can India ever make a name for itself as a market leader in the Metaverse domain? 

The experts pointed out that it was essential to understand that culture matters a lot when one turns to India. The people here and the individual experiences are very different from other parts of the world, and what works elsewhere, will probably not work here; it must be customized. It was pointed out that to cater to the Indian audience, any product or service must be developed for the masses and must be highly cost-effective. 

When discussing the Indian scenario, an important topic that cropped up was the issue of the digital divide- despite tech advancements, there are still several parts of the country with non-digital natives, who are barely just adapting to how one can send a message online. This is in stark contrast to the urban smart cities which are delving into the Metaverse. This divide must be bridged, or it will pose problems later on- the entire population must be taken together when it is time to grow and progress. 

An expert mentioned that India is utilizing the Metaverse extensively in the healthcare industry, especially in mental health for therapies such as assimilation-based therapy. It is very interesting to see the use cases that our country has devised and it is highly possible that India can be a pioneer in these areas. 

As the digital divide was discussed, there was also the stark difference between the pay scale and what different people can afford. At present, the Metaverse appears limited to just the privileged few; headsets are worth upward of 40k rupees!

Another key point brought up was the fact that the Indian youth is now being born on a touchscreen- what that means is they are growing up exposed to new technologies and thus, the adoption rate could be fast. However, the platforms must be well-planned before they are put on the market. 

Several experts pointed out that the Metaverse and cryptocurrency are often used interchangeably and the unaware audience clubs them into the same category. Crypto receives pushback and aversion due to the immense volatility, but it is different from the Metaverse. 

There was also a rapid-fire round conducted where everyone was asked to name the top use case in India of the Metaverse if the current challenges did not exist. The answers that cropped up were education, retail, election management, remote working, co-working, entertainment, healthcare, MSMEs, and banking. 

The conversation then turned toward the future- what is India’s web3 adoption likely to look like 5-10 years from now? How will policymaking play a role in widespread adoption and how can the masses be educated about the concept of the Metaverse? 

There were a wide variety of viewpoints that cropped up, and the panelists differed from each other here.

One expert felt that India’s web3 adoption 5-10 years from now probably won’t be at the level that we would hope and expect and this is simply because regulatory and compliance complications are likely to slow it down. 

However, others felt that capability is being developed rapidly. The government is doing its bit by supporting initiatives- there may be no support for crypto, but support exists for the metaverse, web3, and blockchain. It was brought up that India has immense capability and amazing brains; they’re keen to explore new ideas and adopt new technologies. A research was pointed out by Nasscom on the startup ecosystem and web3; $1.3-$1.4 Bn in investment has been raised by Indian startups in the Web3 space!

That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done from a policy perspective. Through a personal experience, a panelist explained how the Indian policies on the web3 and blockchain are highly unclear and users tend to find loopholes, ultimately making a ‘mockery’ of the system. Even the legal system is hazy; they will be unsure of how to take up conflicts around such topics because the rules are not well-defined. 

To accelerate the Metaverse in India, three verticals must work together in tandem: the government, the corporates, and the startup community. 

When asked how to raise awareness about the concept in society, there were a few solutions that cropped up. Government-sponsored hackathons was an idea that was widely appreciated as well as the point that legal counsel must be provided by the State for entrepreneurs in this space. Others felt that bureaucracy should be sensitized.

While talking about such futuristic concepts, people often think that this movement is just restricted to Bangalore- the public must be told that it's a revolution that is to stay and shall touch every city and every state. There should be active efforts to separate the Metaverse from cryptocurrency as there is a lot of negativity in that space. 

Another idea that the panelists agreed on was the fact that Metaverse is still a difficult concept to explain to people. They need to start experiencing it for themselves to understand the use cases; demos should be given. 

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, does India have the quality and quantity of talent required for acceleration? We’ve been discussing the potential and the opportunity, but does the country have adequate skill? Do we need to look beyond the border? 

There were, once again, many viewpoints. 

While a couple of panelists felt that India does have the skill and talent required due to the massive population, others disagreed. 

Talking through their own experiences, they mentioned that once they started to build a metaverse platform, either for themselves or a client, they realized just how many specialists and niche skill roles they required on board- from 3D designers, mobile engineers, integration specialists, cloud specialists, blockchain artists, experience design. 

They pointed out the irony that we are looking for experience in roles that did not even exists a few months ago- the skill is lacking. While it was acknowledged that population-wise India is rich, it would be incorrect to say that this fresh talent is good enough for the country to try to compete at the global level; business experience is lacking too. 

As an expert argued- “How can you try to find the best talent within 15kms of your office?”

With the world becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent, remote working and talent mobility shall gain prominence. 

The conversation was wrapped up by once again pointing out that the Metaverse has massive potential but the basics need to be solved for before we try to explore outlandish use cases. At present, it would appear we aren’t fully ready to seize the opportunity, but we would be soon enough. 

This closed-door conference was the 8th in our Technology Game Changers Series and we are gearing up for the next. Stay tuned!