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This Bengaluru-Based Startup is Leading the Connectivity Wave in India with DePIN

Decentralization is revolutionizing sectors, notably infrastructure, through DePINs. With over 650 projects and a $20 billion market cap, this model challenges Big Tech. Dabba exemplifies this shift in India, targeting the digital divide with strategic connectivity solutions.

Image Source: Dabba
  • Decentralization reshapes sectors, including infrastructure, through DePINs which enhance efficiency and resilience using blockchain for assets like storage and bandwidth.
  • The DePIN ecosystem shows significant growth with over 650 projects and a market cap exceeding $20 billion, indicating potential to disrupt Big Tech, especially in cloud computing.
  • Dabba leverages the principles of DePIN and fosters a decentralized marketplace that brings together connectivity providers and those in need of internet access.

In recent years, decentralization has not just gained momentum; it has practically reshaped numerous sectors. Now, it's making waves in the segment of physical infrastructure. 

Decentralised Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePINs) utilize blockchain to forge a decentralized marketplace for physical assets like storage, bandwidth, and sensors, aiming to enhance efficiency and resilience compared to traditional centralized models.

According to a report, the DePIN ecosystem has expanded significantly with over 650 projects across six distinct subsectors in 2023: compute, AI, wireless, sensors, energy, and services. The combined market cap of DePINs with liquid tokens exceeded $20 billion, generating ~$15 million in annualized on-chain revenue.

Additionally, another report suggests that DePINs are likely to become a multi-billion dollar industry and have the potential to steal market share away from Big Tech counterparts. For example, DePIN players are looking to target the cloud computing sector as a key area for growth, aiming to tap into the expansive $68 billion market revenue​​.

The Need to Bridge Digital Divides

When it comes to India, DePIN has a significant market to capture. Despite being the world's 5th largest economy, a significant portion of India's population remains offline, with internet penetration standing at just over 52% at the start of 2024. 

This disconnect is more pronounced when considering broadband penetration rates, with India's broadband subscriber base markedly smaller than those of the US and China. The US boasts 112 million broadband connections and China leads with 612 million, whereas India has only around 30 million.

“Innovation is needed. At the current rate of doing things, it’ll take another 30-50 years for the rest of the country to get connected. By decentralizing infrastructure and rewarding stakeholders for their contributions we speed up this process and make the internet more accessible. And India serves as a crucial test bed in building out this network which can then be adapted and deployed across the world,” Karam Lakshman, Co-Founder of WiFi Dabba told Newzchain. 

The Indian market's high fragmentation and the absence of dominant service providers offer a fertile ground for DePINs to drive a more inclusive digital expansion. Given the burgeoning global interest in DePINs and their success in integrating blockchain technology across various sectors, India's digital infrastructure landscape could significantly benefit from such decentralized models. 

Founded in 2017, Shubhendu Sharma and Karam Lakshman, WiFi Dabba is one such company that provides an affordable, fast internet service in India where a large part of the population is currently unserved or underserved. 

The Dabba Inception

Back in 2016, Sharma and Lakshman were trying to sign up taxi drivers for their recently launched app, 'Stepni'. However, due to expensive internet charges and poor connectivity throughout the city of Bengaluru, the taxi drivers were not using the app regularly.

That’s when the duo decided to fix this connectivity problem with a reliable and affordable service. The idea was simple: to provide internet access conveniently packaged.

Dabba began by selling WiFi access at local tea and pan shops in the city, with data packages as low as ₹2 for 200MB, valid for 24 hours. Later, the service evolved to offer even more affordable rates, like 1GB for ₹2. 

The company also experimented with an ad-supported free internet model in 2018, allowing users free access at the cost of watching ads or the option to purchase uninterrupted service.

Decentralized Connectivity

Dabba currently is focusing on decentralized connectivity for all. It enables internet connectivity where it's needed the most, through hardware and the Dabba network.

The Dabba network fosters a decentralized marketplace that brings together connectivity providers and those in need of internet access. This ecosystem comprises essential participants required to deliver high-speed WiFi to consumers, including local cable operators (LCOs), hotspot proprietors, consumers desiring internet access, site owners, bandwidth suppliers, and equipment producers.

“A major differentiator from us and other DePIN’s is how our hotspots are deployed. Hotspots are only deployed when there is a paying customer for the service on the other end. This guarantees utility for the network as opposed to the 'build it and they will come' approach that most DePINs implore,” added Lakshman. 

Currently, a typical LCO maintains about 300 connections, yet with the high number of homes and small businesses still not connected, there's potential for LCOs to expand their customer base tenfold.

Leveraging DePIN network principles, Dabba plans to consolidate India's LCOs. By supplying them with essential tools like hardware, software, and marketing support, alongside customer service and affordable capital, it aims to enhance their ability to grow their networks significantly.

The Dabba Way to Digital Utopia

The journey from a struggling app to a potential nationwide connectivity solution is a remarkable feat and it clearly reflects the broader potential of DePINs to disrupt and democratize digital infrastructure globally. 

Additionally, the ambition of Dabba, backed by some of the prominent players in the industry such as Y-Combinator, Borderless, Multicoin Capital, and Generation Ventures, isn't just to patch a connectivity gap; it's about laying the foundation for a digitally inclusive future where access isn't a luxury but a given.

As Dabba continues to unfold its plan with innovation, strategic partnerships, and grassroots implementation, it could very well set a precedent for other nations grappling with similar challenges.

Edited by Harshajit Sarmah