Have you heard of a 10-year old CEO & a 12-year old CTO kicking off their entrepreneurial journey? Or a young department head in a multinational company, living a cushy life leaving their job to start up personal care cosmetics company that has over 100 stores in each state? Investors and foreign multinationals have their eyes on India and they’re investing big time as the Startup movement in India heats up!
Waking up to a loud phone call from a local vegetable vendor is not my typical morning. The call was to inform me he’d be arriving at my doorstep shortly with an order. I picked my jetlagged self up and walked outside to find out what all the commotion was about, the vendor could be heard yelling to customers, trying to bargain away his produce to the highest bidder. Thankfully, we didn’t have to be a part of this commotion, our housekeeper had negotiated prior with the vegetable vendor via a low cost 4G handset, one of a billion connections in a growing nation called India.
Bangalore, or should I say BrandGalore?
From the auto rickshaw driver, or the TukTuk as you’d probably know, from the tea stall to the snappy barber down the brick lanes, everyone is hyper connected! When it comes to travelling, UberGo or the UberPool is the way to go.
Formerly known as the IT Capital, the Garden City, or the Outsourcing capital, Bangalore is now known as the “Start Up Capital”. I visit Bangalore frequently but the pace and scale of tech transformation is incredible! Recently, SBI opened a first dedicated banking branch just for StartUps. Samsung has been in India for 20 years with over 45,000 employees, 3 R&D labs, and 12,000 Research engineers. They recently announced over 50M users on their Galaxy Mobile range. Product innovation team in Gurgaon is huge when it comes to mobile as well.
Yes, it’s nothing new to say mobiles are now largely a commodity and smartphone penetrations have rapidly increased globally but here we’re talking about an entirely different demographic; some of which have very low per capita incomes (dare say, less than a few dollars a day)! It fascinates me, how are mobiles affordable?
When it comes to Mobiles and Gadgets, new brands and devices are everywhere, quite a few companies have come up with low cost handsets and some have come up with the full gamut including VR and 3D. There are a lot more brands & models that don’t exist in Australia such as Oppo, Intex, OnePlus, Xiomi, Videocon, iBall, Karbonn, Asus, Lenovo, Micromax to name a few and a wide range available from the likes of Samsung, Motorola & Google.
It’s quite common now to come across news about Foreign Direct Investments (FDI’s), M&A’s, equity investments and the like. Recently, 4 out of the 16 start up’s mentored by the IESA and TiE received funding be it a cardiac design lab or SenseGiz or Connected Cars. Aricent acquired SmartPlay in 2015 for $180M, Twitter acquired ZipDial for about 40M! A company from Udupi announced that it had earned about 5M from their MasterChef game! Now that’s a mouthful.
Amazon & FlipKart are kind of a big “deal”.
E-commerce sites Amazon.in and FlipKart seem to be on everyone’s lips and some devices and brands sell online ‘only’ versions. I was blown away with one particular retail outlet that had a window display of online specials. Must say, my experience was overwhelmingly pleasant with both Amazon India and FlipKart.
I ended up purchasing a few items from both Amazon and FlipKart, and was quite impressed with their customer service. For instance, it was about 11:30pm by the time I had placed my order on Amazon and I ticked on the premium delivery of Rs 120/- (roughly about $3 extra) by 8am my order was delivered. I ordered a couple of smart phones which are not available in Australia such as the OnePlusOne running the Cynogen framework, Xiaomi’s Mi4i running the MiUi and the Moto 3 Turbo. Throughout the experience I had emails and SMS updates about my order status. Similar experience with FlipKart, I could not resist tweeting to both of these for their excellent work! Security seemed tight on the portals; OTP is big thing in India across many sites (One Time Password generation with a double verification sent to your phone). I placed two orders on the same gadget only a few minutes apart and was pleasantly surprised when I even recieved an “automatic” phone call to confirm that it was definitely my order and the double order was not an error. What a great way to double check with no manual intervention! Surely, these are lessons quite a few E-commerce businesses can learn from.
My key Top 10 observations in India:
1. New businesses are in. The “Start Up” scene is hot,hot,hot!
2. OnePlus & Xiomi seem to have managed to get some real-good traction. I managed to get hold of a 1+ device and must say I was very impressed. One Plus runs on an Android base “Cynogen” framework. Worth checking it out. They don’t ship to Australia yet and for OnePlusX you actually need an invite or request one to be able to buy.
3. E-commerce sites Amazon.in and FlipKart are extremely popular and have a great user experience mapped out.
4. Pre-Paid connections are still the connection of choice and many people prefer to have a dual SIM phones, one for work, one for personal use.
5. During my last visit, ‘Line’ was a very popular chat tool but now it’s WhatsApp all the way! Group chat is the new craze! Everyone loves updating their display pictures, or more commonly phrased as “DP”.
6. Chinese products seem cheaper than the products made in India and are available everywhere. Most international brands and fashion labels are present in India. Some shopping centres are exclusively built for the high end premium consumers. Bangalore’s UB City Mall being one of them.
7. Interestingly, there wasn’t much I noticed from Nokia and Blackberry. Samsung seems to be the no 1 choice. Google’s Nexus seemed popular as the official “android” device, and iPhone very much seemed like a statement piece.
8. iOT, connectivity, VR, NFC, Mobile payments all being talked (and being invested!) as FDI’s, start up’s, investments are happening everyday!
9. Facebook’s connected Digital India “Basics” had a lot of presence. Mark Zuckerburg had also visited India late last year. This is going to be huge! There’s plenty of positive & negative press about this already.
10. Uber Share, Uber Pool, Uber in the TukTuk, Uber two wheeler ride share- it’s all very popular. People keep finding new ways to doing business, creative, technical & leveraging the growth in mobile, digital and the social economy.
India, incredible it is!
Indian IT companies have paid about $23 Billion tax in the US FY11-15, initiatives from Facebook such as the Free Basics with the vision of connecting 1 Billion Indians to jobs, education and opportunities is all under way.
On one side there are huge theme parks, massive IT companies and unimaginable affluent lifestyles and conversely there are people struggling to make ends meet. With more than half of India’s population under the age of 25, they are out there, enjoying themselves, leaving big IT gigs, sitting down in micro-breweries, very much in vogue, thinking about their next start up idea! Expats and investors are looking into India as a big opportunity! Traffic jams, dust, and noise are a given- India is packed with action – it’s an incredibly exciting place!