Thursday, 21 February 2008

Does India really exist?

I have heard of India but I have not been there yet. I am told that it has a population of over a billion people and about 60m internet users. 60m - that's huge. Double the UK's internet population! But when I started prodding to understand the internet market a bit better, it sort of melted away. Raising the question in my mind - does India really exist?

I read the research reports and reviewed the stats and on the surface the untapped Indian market looks like a huge opportunity for an online proposition like Garlik's, but whatever the books and reports tell you, as an entrepreneur there is no substitute for straight conversation with guys "on the ground" to tell you what's really going on.

I spoke to my "guy on the ground" and said "hey, guy, what's going on, on the ground?". He broke it down like this

- yes, there are 60 million internet users
- but only about 10 million of them use the internet regularly by which he means 2-3 times a week
- and he claims that for the most part they use it for straight forward email and chat, not for surfing and transactions
- the big growth areas, he believes, are travel, matrimony and jobs sites. So, if you want to make a fortune in India launch a site to hook you up with a partner and fly you both off to your new job on the other side of the country and you are made!
- he reckons that probably about 2 million people really have internet integrated in to their lives in the way that we see in the UK and USA

So when I explained Garlik's online proposition to him, he said the actual market available to us today would be close to the 2m active user population. That puts things in to perspective.

Unless some kind person let's me know different it looks to me as if India may not be ripe for a large scale, full-on web proposition right now. That's why it's so important to get behind the numbers and get a "guy on the ground" to give you the real deal - in any market, from London to the Valley to Bombay. Find your guy on the ground and listen hard.

Mind you, my guy did say that there are now 250 million mobile phones, including 25 million advanced handsets. Now THAT'S what I call a market!


Ateeq said...

the prob with india is the wires needed to get everyone online and connectivity needs electricity sometimes.

To bypass all that we need cell phone carriers to build WAN's all over and all the country to have laptops so that we can connect to each other online all the time.

Tim said...

I don't know about India, but I did investigate another developing economy - China - a little in the last couple of years. My kids did a school exchange for a couple of years and I also went there.

What I found was that the kids who stayed with me were very internet-savvy, and very focussed on email and chat. I didn't see much evidence of "hanging out" on the web.

What I saw in China was that a lot of internet access was in group locations (vs. from home): internet cafes, schools, institutions. Lots of shared resources. I guess there's not a lot of cable running anywhere else.

So I wonder if the type of (extensive) internet use in the UK/US is inversely correlated with household size, hours of work and social atomization? People using the legacy infrastucture (tel cables) to keep themselves connected in an increasingly socially fragmente world where they have more leisure time ...

Certainly all the Chinese folks I met spent far more time working than most Emglish people I know (despite claims that we in the UK are working harder than ever).