Digital Technology , Digital Transformation , Metaverse

Metaverse: Are You Ready for the New Digital World?

Tech and Non-Tech Companies Are Embracing News Ways to Build Metaverse
Metaverse: Are You Ready for the New Digital World?

Nikeland, a virtual showroom on the Roblox gaming platform where visitors can dress up their avatars in Nike apparel and shoes, has already opened. A digital Gucci bag was recently sold on the platform for $4,000.

Concerts in the virtual world are becoming a multi-million dollar industry. A major concert held on Fortnite, an online video game developed by Epic Games, was seen by 45 million people and grossed around $20 million, including sales of merchandise.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are revolutionizing the art world, with auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's auctioning digital masterpieces for millions of dollars.

This isn't a tech invasion. The elements of a new digital age are converging at scale.

Metaverse: The Next Big Thing

Some call metaverse the convergence of virtual and physical realities; for others, it represents a persistent digital space for meetings, games, socializing or a digital twin of our world.

Some of the most well-known brands in the metaverse space currently are Bored Ape Yacht Club, RTFKT, Genies and Zed Run. All these names sound unfamiliar, and that highlights the point.

The gaming industry has been the earliest adopter of the digital world concept for decades and is central to the emergence and development of the metaverse. Today, popular games like Roblox and Fortnite are icons of the metaverse gaming space, providing gamers with immersive and interactive worlds.

Well-known tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Meta are gearing up to build metaverse. To embrace this bold new world, they are creating ways for users to replicate their lives in digital worlds. Non-tech companies like Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Visa and supercar maker Ferrari are also racing to be part of it.

Indian firms are logging on to metaverse - from jewelry brands to IT giants to private telecom players - as it ushers in a new wave of doing business and impacts every sector that consumers interact with each day.

CIOs and digital leaders need to understand the ways in which the metaverse may affect how organizations and people engage, interact and transact.

The Shift From Digital Business to Metaverse

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article titled "How the Metaverse Could Change Work," the metaverse draws on a vast ensemble of different technologies, including virtual reality (VR) platforms, gaming, machine learning, blockchain, 3D graphics, digital currencies, sensors and (in some cases) VR-enabled headsets.

The metaverse is ready to explore new opportunities, new business models and better ways to engage with stakeholders - be it customers, suppliers, dealers or employees.

According to Gartner, by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social and/or entertainment.

So, what can enterprises expect to happen next with the arrival of the metaverse?

While investment in the metaverse is still in its nascent stage, IT leaders need to take the time to learn, explore and prepare for it in order to position themselves competitively.

"The future is metaverse, and it is all about new-age digital immersive experiences. However, we must align this to meet real customer and employee requirements," says Mohit Kapoor, chief technology officer at farm to-finance conglomerate Mahindra Group, in this exclusive interview.

Mahindra & Mahindra trained its senior car engineers at various large service centers across India on how to repair XUVs using the AR/VR-based metaverse platform. "The training was provided even before the launch of our XUV last year. They had never seen the new variant physically," Kapoor says.

Metaverse in the automotive sector is certainly changing the way cars are sold, repaired, driven and designed. Automaker MG Motor recently launched MGverse, a metaverse platform to innovate, improvise and build new solutions to enhance the customer experience in the future. BMW partnered with Nvidia, and Hyundai with Unity, both with the intent of building state-of-the-art, virtually accessible 3D digital twins of their factories.

The telecom sector is also leveraging metaverse opportunities. In June this year, communications solutions provider Airtel launched Xstream - India's first multiplex on the Partynite Metaverse platform.

"Airtel's Xstream provides a larger-than-life experience, which brings together Web 3.0 apps and immersive storytelling, and an assortment of content for partners," says Shashwat Sharma, director of marketing at Airtel. "Through the metaverse, we aim to tap into a larger audience, and provide content enthusiasts an opportunity to sample our offerings. This will aid in driving higher adoption."

Reliance Industries' tech arm, Jio Platforms, announced the acquisition of a 25% stake worth $15 million in Two Platforms, a Silicon Valley-based deep tech startup. Vodafone Idea is also evaluating metaverse opportunities to better engage with customers and enhance their digital experience.

Credit Suisse, in a report titled "Metaverse: A Guide to the Next-Gen Internet," said metaverse has enormous potential to further expand screen time and drive more bandwidth consumption. "Internet traffic is already 80% video and has been growing at a 30% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Even a modest metaverse usage could drive a further 37% CAGR in the next decade to 20x current data usage," the report said. Telcos will benefit from surge in data usage driven by metaverse.

While telcos uncover the metaverse potential, land rush is driving up the cost in the virtual reality space. Brands are buying virtual space on the metaverse platform to create experience centers and retail space to showcase products. Samsung, Adidas and HSBC, among others, have invested in digital worlds. In 2021, the real estate sales on the four major metaverse platforms - The Sandbox, Decentraland, CryptoVoxels and Somnium - reached $501 million, according to a report by MetaMetric Solutions, a company that deals with metaverse data. The sales are estimated to reach nearly $1 billion in 2022. Companies building virtual worlds divide the space into smaller plots that can be purchased using NFTs, which is essential to the metaverse. NFTs will allow users of virtual spaces to own and trade digital assets.

Marketing and advertising are potentially one of the biggest segments of the meta-economy as they present huge opportunities for branding and immersive ad experiences in virtual worlds due to the mass audiences available.

Metawork: Working in the Virtual World

The after effect of the pandemic - especially limitations on physical meetings and travel - has spurred a search by enterprises toward a more reliable, cohesive and interactive remote and hybrid work environment.

The metaverse promises to bring new levels of social connection, mobility and collaboration to a world of virtual work, according to HBR. "It offers new possibilities to rethink the office and work environment, introducing elements of adventure, spontaneity and surprise. It could revolutionize training and skills development, drastically compressing the time needed to develop and acquire new skills," the article states.

"The metaverse has the potential to massively transform the way we work, shop, trade, play, socialize and are entertained, both physically and virtually. Leaders with a strong innovation infrastructure and execution capability in their organizations should take advantage of the opportunities the metaverse presents," writes Jeff Wong, global chief innovation officer, EY, in a LinkedIn post.

The world of work is possibly where the metaverse will have the greatest impact early on. Enterprises can look to provide better engagement, collaboration and connection to their employees through immersive workspaces in virtual offices. Businesses will not need to create their own infrastructure as the metaverse will provide the necessary framework.

Atish Banerjea, Meta's chief information officer, spoke at the EmTech Next, the annual conference hosted by MIT Technology Review in June this year on how Meta is bringing employees into the metaverse for team meetings. Eighteen months into the pandemic, Meta held its first offsite using the Meta Horizon product to sit in a virtual conference room. "I would basically feel very confident around the experiences that we can and are creating in the VR world. These experiences are much closer to the in-person experience than what you see on a two-dimensional screen today," Banerjea said.

Shaping the Future With Metaverse

Metaverse existed in our lives as entertainment in the form of games, but it took a global pandemic to speed up its acceptance as a work culture. Although the hype has outpaced reality, the metaverse is certainly marking a broad shift in how we interact with technology. More advancements are required in computing, network infrastructure and devices.

With a potential to generate up to $5 trillion in value by 2030, the metaverse is too big to be ignored. CIOs and digital leaders will have to take the lead and make their C-suite members understand the technologies that power metaverse initiatives.

According to a June 2022 McKinsey report titled "Value Creation in the Metaverse," companies already leveraging the metaverse may build lasting competitive advantages. "Business leaders should develop a strategic stance by defining metaverse goals and the role they want to play; testing, learning and adopting by launching initial activities, monitoring results and examining user behavior; and preparing to scale by identifying necessary capabilities and embedding the metaverse in their operating model. They should also explore becoming metaverse users themselves," the study said.

Enterprises will need to create a focused strategy to generate value as they enter a new gateway to digital experiences.

About the Author

Ashwani Mishra

Ashwani Mishra

Executive Editor, ISMG

Mishra has worked with print and online media companies over the last 17 years and has focused on various editorial and marketing-led initiatives from concept to execution. Prior to joining ISMG, he worked with UBM India, The Economic Times and 9.9 Media.

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