The Bharat growth story will be much bigger, more interesting, and multifaceted than the India growth story. The ‘India’ story was easier to analyse. It followed similar trends. The average urban Indian is able to communicate in English, is employed in some kind of a job with some disposable income, and have access to “good” technology.
The ‘Bharat’ story is more difficult to understand. Bharat is the emerging population from the bottom of the pyramid who are increasingly becoming heavy users of the internet. Yes, they aren’t the iPhone or broadband type. They use entry-level smartphones with poor internet connectivity.
As per estimates, more than 70% of Indians surf the internet with 2G connections and only 19% of them have access to broadband above 10 Mbps. Also, as per IDC, 70% of the smartphones sold in India is for less than $100. Bharat does not speak English. They speak their local languages. Yet, they have similar needs. They want the same information served to them, locally. These demographics make the Bharat growth story compelling and something that all companies want a share of.
No wonder, internet-based companies like Google and LinkedIn are crafting strategies tailor-made for Bharat. As per Google, there are now more people using Android devices in India than in the US. People in India also install more than a billion apps every month from Google Play. These numbers might seem staggering already, but the number of apps installed in India has grown by 150% each year. Also, Indian consumer spend on apps and games is accelerating at a rapid pace as well, tripling in just the past year alone.
Google India recently reaffirmed its commitment to Bharat by helping developers build high quality products for India by India. In its first ever App Excellence Summit in Bengaluru, Google brought together over 700 Indian app and games developers, where the company shared tips and tools to help developers create the best quality Android apps that are locally relevant. In addition to this, Google also announced its ‘Made in India’ initiative wherein Indian developers can apply for a chance to have apps that are specifically optimised for the Indian market showcased on the Google Play store in India in a special section.
Addressing the summit, Purnima Kochikar, Director, Business Development, Games & Applications, Google Play said, “At Google Play, we are committed to helping Indian developers of all sizes seize this opportunity and build successful, locally relevant businesses. A lot of what we do at Google Play is support developers’ imaginations and make Android consumers aware of the amazing new experiences our developers are creating.”
Recently in August, Google announced the launch of voice search in eight additional Indian languages. Along with Hindi, the new languages include Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. “Speakers of these languages will be able to use their voice to dictate queries — both in Gboard on Android as well as in Search through the Google App,” Google said.
Last year, LinkedIn’s R&D team in Bengaluru developed and launched a ‘Made in India’ product LinkedIn Lite (mobile web version) in India in September 2016. Inspired by the success of the lightweight mobile website, in July 2017, LinkedIn launched the Lite app for the Indian member base.
In August this year, the company rolled out the product in over 60 countries across the world. The Lite version enables smooth access to the platform regardless of connectivity and bandwidth constrains. “The lighter version offers all key features such as news feed, profile, networks, messaging, notifications, allowing members to stay informed, get ahead in their careers and be more productive,” the company said in a release.
Social networking site Facebook is now available in 11 different Indian languages. Facebook’s iTranslate app makes your published posts visible to people in their preferred languages.
Even startups are not lagging behind in tapping the Bharat story. Bengaluru-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup Liv.ai has launched a speech recognition technology in 9 Indian languages to enable businesses to reach out to people who communicate in their regional language instead of English. As an alternative to typing, people can now use their voice to text chat on apps like Facebook and Whatsapp speaking in their own language.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the Bharat growth story is concerned. When this dormant population emerges out of its cocoon, it will be the real game changer. We have barely scratched the surface.