Metaverse, the new buzzword, is well on its path to find its way into business plans big and small over the next decade. A new report by data analytics firm GlobalData has recorded a 40% jump in companies using the word in quarterly filings in the March quarter. The fast-growing corporate interest could soon put us into an exciting alternate world with our favourite virtual avatars, attending music events and fashion shows, or even attending fictitious work meetings.
The nascent concept is expected to rise rapidly, with Bloomberg Intelligence pegging revenue potential at $800 billion by 2024 and a report by Gartner projecting that a quarter of the world’s population could be spending at least an hour a day on the metaverse by 2026. Early iterations of the technology aim to innovate interaction and socialization in ways previously seen and read only in science fiction, by letting users immerse themselves in virtual environments.
The internet is evolving fast, and today’s version, called Web 2.0, is vastly different from the static web-pages of the 1990s. As metaverse sells itself as a key element of Web 3.0, big technology players are pouring in billions of dollars to offer users the virtual experience, with tech titans such as Meta, Apple and Microsoft all jumping on the bandwagon. As the GlobalData finding shows, many are also weaving it into their interactions with investors eager to pump in money even if they don’t completely comprehend it well. Some Indian firms are also experimenting with Metaverse.
The Metaverse is likely to penetrate every industry. From software companies to luxury fashion labels, businesses could soon start claiming their place in this digital landscape. Early adopters, from small crypto startups to tech giants, are already doing so.
Gaming and entertainment could gain the most, with 26% of 300 US-based developers betting on each in a recent survey by software platform Agora. Music, art, and fashion are also potential metaverse magnets. “Early adopters in India would be segments like gaming, education, entertainment, luxury and high-value product industries,” said Pradeep Singh, chief executive officer of Squirrel, a metaverse-based Bengaluru startup. “The reason is that initially metaverse will be seen as a place for curiosity, creativity and leisure. However, the underlying technology will evolve to eventually offer opportunities to deploy robust use cases in core industry segments like banking and healthcare.”
The list is never-ending for business applications, from brands giving virtual product demos to retail customers to teaching people new skills, said Sumit Ghosh, chief executive officer of Chingari, a video-sharing mobile application that recently launched its NFT collection in preparation for its metaverse debut.
Last month, singer Daler Mehndi, who has already hosted a concert on the metaverse, reportedly bought a virtual plot called “Balle Balle Land”. Lepasa, a metaverse startup, plans to create 15-20 virtual themed cities. The metaverse hype could redefine how we view even property.
The interest could grow despite the high prices and volatility of cryptocurrencies, with which metaverse-based real estate can be bought. Globally, sales have been concentrated on the “Big Four” platforms: Sandbox, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and Somnium. The Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship says land transactions and their prices on Sandbox shot up materially in the past year, with spending up more than 10 times.
Though new to Indian markets, metaverse could help brands use virtual land to create experiences for target audiences, said Vijay Pravin Maharajan, CEO of bitsCrunch, a blockchain firm. “It would change the way Indian customers approach online shopping and even purchasing property.”
Fashion events, music festivals, art exhibits, and live football matches on the metaverse are also set to rapidly evolve. Companies know it could be a treat for entertainment media consumers, and businesses are working hard to make this a reality. However, despite versatile opportunities, the metaverse may be lagging other blockchain concepts as of now.
In India, Google search interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse has declined dramatically this year after exploding in 2021. Because it is too nascent, search interest is behind that of NFTs, which are also experiencing reduced sales and interest as the craze flattens after last year’s boom.
While metaverse can one day become a normal way to socialize, experts believe data privacy and security will be the most difficult challenges in its way to rapid expansion. With cryptocurrency already getting policymakers’ attention, Metaverse could be the next tough nut to crack.