The ‘Real’ Mobile Internet in India

We’re entering the most exciting phase of the Internet in India – mobile internet. It’s a well-understood fact that smartphones and ubiquitous cellular data access will make India the world’s first truly mobile-first mass market.

Two implications for us as students of this market and entrepreneurs:

1. Consumers who have never seen a PC will be using our products and services. They will act completely unlike you and I on every dimension – discovery (how they find you), value prop  (why they use you), engagement (why they return) and transaction (what they buy and why and how).

I’m going to use examples from our portfolio to illustrate my observations. Disclaimer: Knowing these outstanding entrepreneurs and their teams, I am a biased party and will champion their cause.

With 10% English literacy and 74% local language literacy in India, the next 300 million users in India need to experience the Internet in their native language. At Newshunt, we serve the local language user, in a seamless way – 25000 articles daily across 100+ newspapers, in 12+ languages on any phone. The user uses Newshunt like you and I used Yahoo in 2000 as their daily gateway.

The team at Newshunt has painstakingly solved for the users every need. For example:

(a) Discovery: occurs via news dissemination, not necessarily App store.

(b) Value prop: solving the local language problem for every phone is not sexy. But the user thinks it is!

(c)  Engagement: send the user a notification in his native language, from the newspaper he loves, at the time he reads on his favorite topic – the user will return.

(d) Transaction: Newshunt readers want to read more. The team launched eBooks in local languages charging Rs. 5 – 50 paid via iPayy their telco-based payment platform.

2. Every person – student, small business owner, delivery boy, executive, electrician, taxi driver, restaurant manager – has a mobile phone (supercomputer!) in their hand and want to use it in their daily life (multiple times a day) to be more effective. Understanding each of their lives and serving their biggest daily need in an ‘Indian’ way is all we need to do.

At Ola Cabs, the team has done something magical: connect taxi drivers to riders near them through their mobile, solving both their problems simultaneously. This has to be done in an Indian way though: sms, call centre, missed call systems and advance booking all are essential to solve for the current pain points. An App is not enough!

At Mswipe, a mobile payment POS company, we solve an SME’s core need. Every SME wants to accept card payments but it’s expensive and cumbersome. Connecting our affordable Wisepad Bluetooth card reader to their mobile enables card payments. Again this means solving for their Indian pain points: low device cost, KYC, bank relationships, SMS reports, SMS receipts, on ground sales support.

At Matrix India, our endeavor is to partner with and serve founders who are obsessed about serving the ‘Real’ Indian user who is just starting to engage with the Internet.


Vikram Vaidyanathan

Vikram Vaidyanathan

Vikram is a Director at Matrix India, an early stage VC firm. He has led 7 investments as part of the Matrix team. He partners with founders across sectors including Mobile, Education tech, Video, Local services, SME Tech and SaaS. He is an MBA from IIM Bangalore and an engineer trained at RVCE Bangalore.