Take Your Team to India

May 21, 2008

in Mobility, research, Scenarios & Futures

Yesterday I posted this blog Emerging Markets and Mobile Impact on the Supernova2008 ConversationHub and I wanted to share it here too. My interest in doing Market Research into Indian opportunities is not limited to mobile, or technology. Banks, Financial Institutions, Healthcare, Consumer Products etc. It just traces to the size of the opportunity and the influence a booming emerging India is likely to impact on the world.It’s easy to think that things happen the same there and will evolve along the same trajectories as they have in the Western world. That’s not the case. Example: Banks send cash home to you with just a phone call. There are also many more reasons for it remaining a cash centric society for now. Below I’ve again talked about Mobile and I sense for many that after the mobile “if” they buy a PC or laptop they may have different needs. They will come at it differently.

Separately, it has never been clearer to me that company’s that get research done without participating locally are losing a huge opportunity to learn and find ways to be more innovative. It’s not the same as doing groups in Atlanta. If you send a researcher (prefer a small team) and they don’t see the context then the interpretation is likely to be faulty. More importantly it is the pheripheral stories that contextualize the learnings they are the things that are taken back. It’s just another reason why I believe a Learning Journey element should be part of every deep dive into India. Just so happens we could help you with that too.

Emerging Markets and Mobile Impact

I’ve become more and more interested in how technology is spreading in emerging markets. Often I think we come at it from a top down approach. The technology and the prices will filter down. Ultimately, it will reach the lower income groups. In simplistic terms this is what we have seen in the Western world. First with landline telephones and TV’s, later with computers and more recently with mobile phones. This doesn’t fit with emerging markets.

In Emerging Markets the bottom of the pyramid are being revolutionized by the mobile phone. A purchase that now comes before the TV, the Radio, perhaps even the LPG stovetop. Increasingly these devices offer more. While we have typically rejected all in one devices here they make sense. It costs nothing to add in a radio, or playback of MP3’s. The mobile even tells the time. In fact these items can be made more tangible by making speakers more visible and louder, making screens larger etc. Watch and hear may help those that are illiterate. This fits with the sense of “value” that exists.

The mobile is making low income groups more efficient and productive. Less time waiting and more time working or getting a better price etc. It will also mean they come at other technology products from a mobile technology perspective. Will one of these users ever part with a mobile and want a laptop instead? What if your next choice is a used smart phone or a laptop? What are the trade-offs? Or will you just settle for a TV and make the phone last longer. My bet is on trading up or passing on the computer or TV.

Here we have stopped thinking about bazaar’s and marketplaces. We go to the supermarket. It’s a very very fortunate few that can go to a tailor or have their clothes made. Yet when I walk around India I see vege traders, and sari makers everywhere. They both make efficient use of their inventory and their labor. I see use of missed calls to make “tacit connections” at no cost. I see SMS use and notifiers growing. In fact many of these users are subscribing to SMS notification services for sports and business because they want that greater connection. They are not yet overwhelmed. They are in effect on an accelerated course of “connectivity”. We need to look here to see how mobility and knowledge sharing is changing.

A few question for me are… How could this connectivity emerge in new networking services? What will the impact be of GPS location specific information with high population density? Will GPS have even more value to this emergent group than it has to us who are worried about privacy, marketing messages and unwanted interruptions? Is it likely that the really powerful social networks of the future emerge from the bottom up rather than the top down. Philosophically I hope so. The best chance for P2P is probably in this emerging world.

I also see is Nokia and Google making moves re location based services that are targeted at geo location on photos and artifacts. That’s cool ultimately, it’s not an emerging market demand. Where I see the real potential is in cities like Mumbai where the density is such that geo location enables all sorts of new connections between traders and workers. A tweet that says I need a key cutter may find one less than a kilometer away. They can help me get entry. A tweet might also bring a rickshaw without a central taxi office. It may also find someone to share coffee with just like here.

A few what if questions and thoughts:

  • If Mobile operators there were to give mapping and location data away for free (even cell tower triangulation) the SMS models and volumes it could stimulate could have a really innovative payback.
  • If they would set up an SMS system with a single public code that can broadcast to RSS…. then twitter like service becomes possible, a user can create “follower” and notification packages etc. Again the stream could be given away / free. Signup can simply be your “handle” with a confirmation back. Commercial services would pay. The handle is not a number in the feed.

For other recent thoughts on India I wrote a series of posts Dina summarized for me.

Previous post:

Next post: