If the typical Indian business owner thinks the much talked about smartphone revolution does not concern their business then they should think again. Given the rapid growth of the smartphone market, it is only a matter of time till Indian consumers get their hands on one of the new generation mobile phones. This presents a great opportunity for Indian small businesses that know how to capitalize on this trend to gain competitive advantage.
Although India boasts to have the 2nd largest telecommunication network in the world after China (with 771 million mobile lines in service) and over time internet usage has surged (currently standing at aprox. 50 million active monthly internet users on PCs and phones), consumers in India have historically avoided mobile internet. The reason was the slow speed of the connections and an overall poor experience on feature phones. This is about to change.
India’s telecom providers are now driving consumers towards a new wave of inexpensive smartphones that will be powered by their new next generation 3G mobile networks, which should be fully rolled by 2012. According to IMRB and IAMAI the total number of mobile internet users in India in 2010 was 12.1 million. In 2011 the number is expected to reach 30 million. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group has predicted there could be as many as 237 million mobile internet users in India by 2015, up from the current estimate of about 11 million. This not only implies exciting times for telecom companies but also presents a unique opportunity for businesses that are ready to deliver rich mobile content, games, and useful ‘apps’ to consumers and businesses hungry for great experiences on their new smartphones.
Smartphones, for many Indian consumers in cities and rural areas alike, will represent the equivalent of their PC, opening the flood gates to reaching the previously untapped consumers throughout the country with compelling digital experiences. Consumers, who had been previously limited to retail businesses in their local area, will now have full access to online commerce sites. Since historically e-commerce sites have not been formatted for mobile devices, India’s future presents a perfect opportunity for small businesses to serve this new need, while avoiding global players as competition.
In the future, consumers will also have full access to ‘apps’, the latest hot trend in mobile, that will allow for businesses to provide experiences that move well beyond the capability of the mobile browser. Free, for sale or designed to drive awareness of their business, applications will provide businesses with a permanent foothold on consumers’ devices. In a recent report, Gartner forecasts that global sales of apps for the iPad, iPhone and other portable mobile phones and devices will exceed $15 billion in 2011. It also predicts that this year 17.7 billion apps will be downloaded, the revenue from which will exceed the mobile app revenue generated in 2010 by 190%.
Though digital technologies are yet to conquer the Indian market, the country has already set out on a path to its digital future. Smartphones will bring rich digital experiences to the masses, which they will not only desire but will come to expect – and entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of such platforms will reap the benefits.