Ajay Gupta Issue: India 2014
Article no.: 1
Topic: Digital India is a different place
Author: Ajay Gupta
Title: Ajay Gupta, Vice President, Head of Strategy & Marketing
Organisation: Ericsson
PDF size: 320KB

About author

Ajay Gupta joined Ericsson as Vice President of Ericsson’s Consulting practice in Dec 2010, and assumed charge of Strategy and Marketing function as of July, 2011. As part of the Ericsson Consulting practice, he has set up strategic consulting group and led Ericsson’s foray to meet enterprise communication needs.
Prior to joining Ericsson, Ajay launched and successfully grew multiple businesses. He led and created multiple business lines being part of the management teams at Aricent and Sasken. He led these companies into multiple technology domains including setting up service provider business, establishing Business technology consulting, business process consulting, Network consulting and integration service.
Holding global responsibility, he led the teams delivering OSS/BSS and multimedia solutions in the US, Europe and Asia Pacific. He was a key player in multiple merger and acquisitions, and was instrumental in integrating several companies into a single integrated business. He has developed and marketed various technologies in the convergence areas, from SS7, VoIP, IMS to 3G and 4G, to deliver next generation services to consumers and enterprises.
During his career, he has performed multiple roles, from account management, product management, marketing management, strategy development, engineering management and business management.

Article abstract

The Indian population is young and the young adopt technology, as ducks take to water. Generation Z (millenials) spends half of its waking life using mobile phones, watching TV and gaming. Social media gives a voice to the silent majority, as seen in New Delhi demonstrations, as in Cairo. Being connected makes women feel safer, when their family track their journeys and emergency contact is at hand. In particular remarkable is the impact on smaller towns – they provide half the revenues of eCommerce companies, who are selling big city goods to remote areas. There is no doubt that digital India is a different place.  

Full Article

The rise of internet and a new connected lifestyle in India is charting a new trajectory for this region. In some sense, we are catching up with the west. This offers unique benefits of education for masses, telemedicine, e-governance, etc. Consumers in India are redefining the way they consume information, socialize with others, share their views and solve daily urban challenges. The digital Indian consumer of today is not the one sitting in the office checking emails on PC, but the 12 year old kid who can probably by now write a thesis on smartphones, give you a crash course on tweet lingo, make you learn how to manage multiple Facebook profiles, and buy you a pair of chinos online with a few clicks.
The young in India are the torch bearers of the digital development. As per the 2011 census, more than 50% of India’s population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and the US, 45 for Western Europe and 48 for Japan. Digital connectivity is now a part of life for India’s Generation Z who is born between 1994 and 2004. It is catching up to the pace of digital life that you see among the millennial generation in adoption of devices and services. Of the 69 million urban Generation Z children in the age group of 9-18 years, 30 million now own mobile phones while another 11 million share phones with their family members.
They also own more gadgets than a family would have owned few years ago. What’s more, they are spending a greater amount of time on these devices. Generation Z spends half of its waking life using mobile phones, watching TV and gaming. For about a quarter of these kids, almost all of their internet time is on the mobile phone. Children are acquiring phones quicker than they are getting PCs or laptops, with PCs often located in a common room. Need for personal connectivity away from the watchful eyes of parents is what makes mobile phones the preferred means to access the internet. One of the big reasons for this development has been the rise of social media. Our studies show that even 9-11 year old kids now spend 1 hour 7 minutes daily on Facebook, of which 40 minutes are spent on a mobile phone. The pace of this usage is such that 21% of young Indian kids today mirror digital usage patterns seen among their older counterparts.

The rise of social media and connected devices like smartphones has not only impacted the young, but also the middle class in India. India is now home to around 82 million Facebook users, 75 percent of which accesses social network from their phones. India is the second largest market after the US for Facebook, sprinting past Indonesia’s users while the micro blogging site Twitter now has 33 million users in India. From the Tahrir square in Egypt to open grounds in Delhi, the rise of social media has provided the usually silent middle class a voice to bring issues to the streets. The middle classes, of late, have been more than visible online, showing anger at poor governance, lack of accountability among elected representatives, corruption and women’s safety. From small protests across the country to demonstrations outside ministers’ houses, and further to rallies outside metro stations, have been galvanized through Twitter and Facebook. All this was made possible through an app that can be downloaded on smartphones giving users the latest news on the campaign and details of the latest meetings. Internet enabled phones these days make females more secure. From SOS button to alert emergency contacts, having relatives or friends track their journey, and warning others of dangerous areas by pinning them on an online map or social media, women in urban cities now feel more empowered. Techies and activists envision that these apps in future might act as a deterrent to abuse.

While social media is a significant trigger for mobile internet usage in high growth markets, consumer preference is shifting towards using connected devices like smartphones for more. Ericsson ConsumerLab study among smartphone users in high growth markets like India, Brazil and Russia indicate that users in these markets are beginning to explore and use apps further down in the long tail of apps. New users are increasingly purchasing specialized apps such as dating services and price comparison, right from the moment they get their smartphone. The usage of these specialized apps by new users is almost on a par with mature users. Users are strongly interested in using apps that enable them to deal with daily challenges and interact with places, people and things in their urban surroundings.

Figure 2 Mobile Subscriber and Smartphone growth in India by 2022

At Ericsson, we firmly believe the growth of Indian mobile subscribers to be around 1.2billion users by 2022 and smartphones coupled with high speed internet connectivity are likely to be game changers in the coming years. We expect that by 2017 around 300 million mobile users will carry a smartphone coupled with mobile broadband connectivity, up from the 45 million today. By then a smartphone user is expected to gobble around 890MB of data per month up from the current level of 470MB clocking an 87% increase in mobile broadband traffic.
The digital culture in India is transforming daily lives of millions, from the those travelling in 3rd class trains to corporate executives travelling by air. Did you ever imagine not carrying a paper ticket while travelling by either train or air and still getting to your destination? From e-ticket to SMS ticket at Indian Railways and new mobile check-in facility by Air India, this is a reality. Gone are the days we all used to wait in long queues to pay utility bills or buy movie tickets. This is the age of one click online payment options. Information is now at your fingertips, while searching for an Italian restaurant or a plumber. With local search engines like JustDial and Asklaila, it is easy as a breeze. About 61% of Justdial’s traffic comes from the internet and online queries are at a much higher rate than voice traffic. Small, Medium and big enterprises know that it is a Win-Win situation for them to grab business by listing with such providers.
Has this digital development impacted the urban poor in anyways? Yes, and I see that from experiences in my own life. Our household help Asha does not stop bragging about how her son Suresh, 15 year old, who studies in a private school in Delhi, has superior command over the computer and internet. For just Rs 20 for an internet session at the cyber café, he has access to sample questionnaire papers or references books for the exams for which she would have had to normally shell out Rs 150. My driver learnt to use Maps and Whatsapp from my son and I was surprised when he started to communicate with me on Whatsapp!
Even rural Indian consumers have climbed on the e-commerce bandwagon and are competing with their urban counterparts, shopping or selling just about anything. With rapidly increasing internet usage in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns, semi-urban small towns and rural India no longer remain untouched with digital development. Buying and selling of dairy animals is already a practice in rural India. The use of online classified ads to ensure better reach, compared to other traditional platforms, has never been heard of before. According to Quickr, Tier 2 and 3 cities in India account for over 50 per cent of its online traffic. Small towns often do not have access to merchandise available in metros. As a result, they go online to find and order the product of their choice. According to some reports, half of the revenues of many e-commerce firms come from small towns. These online commerce firms are often seen raising the bar on consumer experience.
The digital development is likely to impact consumer experience, which the Indian connected consumers will start expecting from the service providers across all industries. I recall an instance where our ConsumerLab team was interviewing a girl from Lucknow who had recently shopped online for a Saree and was delighted not because she received her item the next business day, but the fact that the item came with a hand written note of the owner thanking her for the purchase, offering her a free return, and suggesting some accessories that go well with the existing item she had bought. This led us to take on a consumer experience benchmarking exercise across 12 service industries which included airlines, fast food, mobile operators, banks and more. We asked consumers to rate their experience on nine key performance parameters which governed how each industry performed against the others. The results indicated that consumers today in this digital age benchmark their experience from one set of players to others and expect the same level of service and satisfaction. Airlines, Fast Food and online shopping providers emerged as the top ranking providers while it was very evident that banks, telcos and utility providers had a lot to catch up on.
This is only the beginning. Imagine a society of connected devices, where everything that benefits from a connection will have one. Already connected wearables like Google Glass are showing us possible digital future of sectors like education and medical science. Educators will be able to read out lectures to students from far flung remote locations in India. Doctors will be able to stream live operations to medical students, and you would be able to plan and pick your vacation destination by accessing hundreds of live video feeds from users wanting to share their vacation experience. We expect around 50 billion connected devices by 2020 across the globe. While no one can predict how disruptive this increase in connectivity will impact India, we can however expect to live in a profoundly different digital country.