India is growing. Fast. Some analysts consider us the next engine for global economic growth and this has spurred a new wave of companies from regions across the world into looking at India as a hotbed for talent, innovation, and ultimately, profit. And they can’t be wrong – we have the largest youth population (ages 10 through 24) of 356 million, ahead of China’s 269 million; a growing middle class (the world’s largest by 2030) and with hyper connectivity changing the landscape of business – India is an attractive destination as it’s poised to be the second largest smartphone market by 2017.
Let’s dwell on hyperconnectivity for a second. What does it mean? And who is it for? Today – to businesses, it’s a driving force for change. Your smartphone usage determines how a business interacts with you.
To individuals, it’s merely convenience – the world at your fingertips. Sometimes, it’s almost like someone is only as smart as the data plan that they are connected to.
As for what it means – it’s the intersection of Internet, mobile technology, the Internet of Things, people, places, organisations and objects that are now linked together like never before.
Now, let’s look at hyperconnectivity in the current Indian context. This is important because under all the hype surrounding India, what’s driving this new found focus on the country as an economic driver for the world economy, today, is the smartphone.
It seems a rather simplistic view, but really, the smartphone is that underlying thread for businesses in and entering India. Today, as a middle-class, urban, millennial in India – I’m thoroughly reliant on my smartphone.
Let’s look at how my day goes and how integral the smartphone is to my life through the day.
I travel from the suburbs to downtown, usually, by myself. For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume I rely on public transport or a cab. If I were to catch a bus – there’s the local transit authority’s app to give me routes. If I were to commute by auto (tuk-tuk), there’s an app to book an auto and if I wanted a cab, there’s Uber, or India’s own, Ola.
Once I get to downtown and get to my co-working space, I pay all my food and drink bills through QuikWallet.
If I don’t feel like eating at the co-working space, there’s Zomato that will help me find a restaurant nearby or any number of delivery services like FreshMenu, and Swiggy that will ferry the food I like from my favourite restaurant.
I can bank through Citibank’s app, look up travel destinations and holidays with MakeMyTrip, communicate effortlessly with Chinese colleagues thanks to the translate function in WeChat, and look at traffic to get back home using my city traffic police app.
Within all this, there are some interesting interplays that are highly relevant to the Indian context. Both the local transit authority and city traffic police aren’t trying to win millions of users over with their apps. To be very honest, the apps aren’t very professional or user-friendly in terms of interface. What they are, however, is very informative to people across every strata of society.
And that should tell you something about the Indian context.
The smartphone has driven even government departments to realize one thing – if they need to connect to citizens easily and seamlessly, rather than relying on more conventional forms of communication such as the radio, TV, or newspaper, the app is now the best way to do so.
That’s the flip-side to hyperconnectivity. While everyone is salivating at the prospect of collecting data points that can be translated into revenues, in the most Indian of contexts, hyperconnectivity is just about staying connected to citizens and keeping them informed.
It’s interesting that government authorities adopt this approach. They’re planning well-ahead for that growing, smartphone-enabled middle class. To put it in numbers – by the end of 2017, India will have half a billion smartphone enabled users and with studies showing a strong correlation between per capita income and internet access, authorities here definitely want to get their game right before it’s too late.
While the business apps intertwined with a user’s daily life point at companies wanting to interact better with users and get a step ahead of the competition, India’s smartphone boom and subsequent ease of access to businesses was really precipitated by moves that happened much earlier and are still very relevant – low-cost connectivity and the feature phone.
Earlier in this post, I wrote of the urban millennial. Urbanites themselves only constitute 32% of the population. 68% of the population lives outside of the city in a country
Where railways and automobiles paved the way for prior economic revolutions the world over, in India, what will drive the technology-driven economic revolution is the rural dweller looking to get onto the world wide web and with a smartphone that costs as little as USD 20.
For the sake of convenience, in this post, we’re going to ignore the Freedom 251 phone – touted as the world’s cheapest smartphone which has been met with a lot of controversy. The Freedom 251 phone and the scheme under which it falls will be the topic of our next post.
Coming back to the topic at hand - imagine the possibilities, if you will, for businesses in this market.
For as little as USD 3 a month, an individual has access to the internet with a smartphone that costs a little over USD 20. Just the cost of the smartphone itself gives this individual almost seven months’ worth of internet access.
While urban citizens can consider themselves very fortunate to be in cities that are the present drivers of economic growth for India, brands should focus their attention on rural markets as soon as they attain a certain level of recognition in the tier 1 cities.
After all, there’re over 700 million people waiting to be introduced to a brand.