Google’s Rajan Anandan on Trends: Mobile, Video, Social, Local to Drive India’s Digital Growth, and Don’t Forget the SMBs

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(Edited excerpts of the keynote address delivered by Rajan Anandan, Managing Director, Google India at the ISB Digital Summit

Rajan Anandan, Google India MD, spoke about the existing digital market and its likely growth in the coming years. He feels that the Internet user base would reach 300 million by 2015 from the current 137 million, with India becoming the second largest Internet user country from the third position behind China and US now. “If you are in business, India is one of the most valuable markets to be in business. 137 million internet users is a very staggering number,” he pointed out, adding, “once you reach 300 million users you are talking massive scale. And, that scale is important regardless of what industry or what sector you are in.”

Mobile first!

Rajan feels that 150–180 million first-time users of the Internet will come from mobile first, and they will most likely only be mobile. “I am including smart phones, feature phones and tablets under this category,” he emphasized.

About 30 million of the 137 million Internet users are on mobile only. He projected stating, “so we are soon going to be a 30 million mobile only to a 200 million mobile only, and that I think is a very important shift irrespective of what industry you are in.” What is interesting is that all these users are going to be smart phone users. India now has 27 million smart phone users, with 1.5 million units shipped every month across platforms. “Within the next 3–5 months, India will see a 3,000 rupee smartphone. So India will actually be a smartphone mobile first market,” Rajan said.

Rajan focused on yet another important trend of tablets overtaking notebook sales from 2013. He said, “The first personal computing device that most Indians would use apart from their smart phone is going to be a tablet and not a PC.” He predicted tablet prices in the Rs. 4000-6000 range. “So 100 million households would have a compute device other than a smart phone. And, as anywhere else in the world, mobility will be a mega trend here,” he added.

Rajan is confident that 4G will take off in India, and we shall leapfrog from 3G to 4G. “And as most Indians will have a smart phone and most households tablets, all of this will happen on 4G,” Rajan said.

Next is the Video

Talking of exploding YouTube user base, which has increased from 20 million to 33 million in 18 months, he said, “at least a third on top of that is mobile users. But, imagine if we do have better connectivity, overnight we will have 100s of millions of users that will use video.” Because of poor bandwidth, this is not possible now: “The only reason why we don’t have a 100 million online video users today is bandwidth.” Explaining why video would have an impacting influence, he said, “Entertainment is a killer segment in India, much like in most parts of the world, but more so in India. 750 million Indians watch Bollywood movies in the theatre, which is actually more Indians than the number of Indians that can afford three meals a day. That number is pretty startling. We love movies, we love music, and imagine if we could get 500,000 movies and all the TV that was ever produced and all the cricket that you can ever watch as a catch-up basis, and is available anytime anywhere, and it is free!”

He stressed that ecosystem would play a crucial role in the video user base expansion. “The online video for the internet ecosystem is going to be more important here in India than in many parts of the world.”

India-centric Internet would be Indic languages-driven and not English-driven

Rajan, talking of the user base of Internet, pointed out that languages will play a crucial part in increasing user base as English-speaking user base is small. “If you look at India, English speaking population is about 150 million people. Out of the 137 million internet users, a large part of our search queries are in English. Beyond a 150 million, the English web will not scale.” To bring Indic language users into Internet, Rajan said, “We have to solve the indic input and indic keyboard problem. It could be speech to text. We believe that the indic input problem has to be solved, and that is a very big problem. The other thing that needs to be solved is content. Today there is just not enough local language content on the Indian web. And, that problem needs to be solved. So, Indic language is a big trend and a big enabler in many ways.”

Local, the next big trend

Rajan gave a sense of another trend, local (finding information around you), that is likely to be a trend setter in the future but felt that it remains largely unexplored but is relevant from many points of view. To give an example, he explained: “Your ability to find what you need around you. The quality of local information today in India is average. Today a good example of local in India is JustDial, but local information goes way beyond a phone number. Local information is, let us say if it is as store, I would like to know where it is, what other people who bought from it thought about it, and I would like to see the insides of it. So local information has to be rich and deep, that we believe is missing today in India, and that is a huge opportunity. And, local in India is really at ground zero and has massive massive potential.”

Social too!

“Going forward what we think is going to be very interesting is how the social graph can be used across many industries,” Rajan said pointing out in a slightly different plane on social as it has a different usability. India is yet to get on the social bandwagon in his opinion. He said, “A lot of innovation has happened all over the world. We believe we are just getting started in India. For example, jobs is a huge category; 3-4 million new jobs have to be created every year. Social networks is the best way to make the matching work. So social is going to be very big.”

SMBs can be targeted through digital advertising

“I think a lot of us in the digital advertising industry talk about how to get big brands online. We think big brands are just a part of the story when it comes to digital advertising industry. We think the story really is SMB. There are more than 12 million businesses in India with more than 5 employees,” he hinted at the larger pile of gold at the bottom of the business pyramid.

“There are actually only 150,000 businesses in India that advertise in any medium,” he pointed out. But “SMBs want to get ROI on very paisa they spend. With digital you can do that, you can spend let us say 200 rupees, try it for a few hours and if you don’t get returns just shut it off, and it is going to be massively performance based to suit the SMB needs. We believe that India is going to be an online and mobile ad first market, hinting at the huge possibilities.

Talking of the advertising pie in the larger picture, he said, “The entire advertising in India today is 6.5 billion. The game is in the long tail and it is to help small advertisers that never advertised and help them do it online/mobile very well.

Signing off, Rajan said the connectivity issue, the big spoilsport, will be solved soon to realize digital growth.

For more from Rajan, read our indepth interview with him.

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