What Mobile-First Strategy means for India?

by Medha Soni

Medha is the Chief Operating Officer at iarani Inc and is passionate about data driven strategies. She has a PhD in Physics.

Back in the 1980’s, people had to wait for years to obtain a fixed line phone connection. It was the epitome of luxury back then with less than 0.001% of the population having access to one.

Fast forward to April 2016; we now have more than 1 billion mobile phone users in the country, ranking second worldwide (only after China). India currently has 220 million smartphone users, more than those in the United States.

Although India still lags behind as far as the smartphone penetration is concerned, the hefty growth rate of almost 25% is reassuring. India is projected to have more than half a billion smartphone users within the next five years. Telecom player Reliance recently introduced Jio, the largest fourth generation (4G) network in the country, with the aim to make mobile services accessible and affordable for every citizen. By 2022, India will have twice as many 4G users as the US population!

The number of mobile users are exploding but what does this mean for businesses in India?

The answer is simple - seize the opportunity and go Mobile-First! Take Facebook as an example. Mark Zuckerberg realized way earlier than others (in particular, Google) that the world is becoming more “mobile”. Facebook adopted a Mobile-First strategy and invested three times the amount that Google did on mobile display ads. The year on year revenues from Facebook mobile apps (including Instagram and WhatsApp) surged over 76% in the second quarter of 2016. Mobile revenue account for 84% of the total revenue for the company.

We recommend go Social and go Mobile but not Mobile only. With just 22% of mobile users being smart phone users, it is way too early to be mobile-only. E-commerce portal Myntra and online grocery delivery service Grofers launched app-only strategies but were forced to roll it back as they were losing business.

Also, majority of smartphone users posses low-end underperforming smartphones incapable of supporting multiple heavy apps. However, the growth of devices that support 4G, will soon overcome this problem. It would be smart to prepare for a Mobile-only future.

With the recent move on demonetization, mobile wallets like PayTM have come to the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Indians. The government aims to convert India into a cashless economy, and the only way to achieve this is to go Mobile-First. Imagine the marketing potential with 1.2 billion Indians possesing a digital wallet.

E-commerce platforms and food-tech companies such as Zomato have already realised the potential of digital wallets employing Mobile-First strategies to scale. Other industries such as healthcare and education are picking up. With urban centers reaching saturation, expansions will now primarily focus on rural areas. Telemedicine is being utilized by doctors to diagnose and treat patients remotely. Patients in rural areas can now consult doctors in cities without traveling for days.

As 4G connections become affordable, quality of rural education is also set to improve. It will encourage non-classroom based courses through videos bringing quality education to every Indian, thus bridging the education gap. Startups already acknowledge the power of mobile devices and we are not far from the day when every company, irrespective of their size and industry will be in the same league.

Mobile is not the future of the marketing. It is the present. Board the Mobile train before it's too late.

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