Devices and Services: A phenomenon in the digital world


Internet usage in India stands at over 200 million users across urban and rural regions. It is worth to note that close to 60 million of these users belong to rural India (ref: IAMAI Internet in India Nov 2013 Research Report). With over 1.2 billion people in India, the percentage of people who are part of the digital world is about 18%. It is conclusive that there is definitely a digital divide while the demography in India has a 70:30 split between rural and urban regions. However, the trend has emerged where there is a significant uptake in rural India on the need to stay connected to internet. The phenomena which is mainstream in urban India, has caught up across the board with mobility being the backbone of this growth.

‘Mobility’ as a term has a definition for sure, but in the context of India, it is packaged as ‘2A’s and an ‘R’. The first one is ‘Availability’. The explosion of devices from all major players as well as new entrants is evidence that there exists a device for everyone’s choice. The second factor is ‘Affordability’. Carrying a device is no more a trend which was termed as a gadget for the rich. The ‘Availability’ has also brought in devices across various price points, hence complimenting ‘Affordability’ factor. The icing on the cake is the third factor which is ‘Relevance’. The devices that we carry needs to be relevant in order to empower each of us to do our best.

Innovation to empower consumers has never ceased. Recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show 2014 (CES) is an evidence of the diverse areas where innovative products (devices and services) were announced. Be it a Smart Fork that was announced at CES a couple of years back or an array of wearable devices announced this year, they all are an evidence of a new phenomenon in the digital world.

‘XBOX One’ is another innovation that will transform the way entertainment content is being looked at and consumed. We definitely are surrounded by devices, but what enables the experience and the interactivity are the services for which the device is a host.

‘Services’ play a pivotal role in lighting up devices and letting users carry out activities they care for most. Services is an overloaded term, and is nothing more than a functional package perceived and consumed by the end user. Classic evidences of services are Skype, facebook, WhatsApp, e-mail etc. which empowers individuals on a daily basis. From a mobility standpoint, while ‘Relevance’ is a major differentiator, hardware makers are constantly in scout for services which are deemed to be relevant for consumers. This is a major driving force while consumers make a purchase decision. One of the example that comes to my mind is of Nokia Asha 501’s statement which is “The wait is finally over. Update your Asha 501 and get the most awaited app, WhatsApp, on your phone. Enjoy the Super Smart Pocket Power with WhatsApp”. A reminder time and again that, hardware is of no use without relevant services. While it may also be true that services are of no use without relevant devices, may be less important in current times where we witness an explosion on the type and variety of devices.

Digital health is another great example where wearable devices are well complimented by surrounding services, combination of which are becoming a prescription for good health.

A critical player in the realm of services is manifested in the form an ‘App’. Services are synonymous to apps, and there are over a million in number. To be precise, there are over 1.5 million apps if you consider Windows, Apple and Google. This brings us to a point to understand what and how many are really required, while everyone is busy building apps across the board. End of the day, it is not about the number of apps, but the value that an app offers to an individual. The question is ‘How can the combination of a device and service empower a doctor to take timely decisions on patients’? How can we empower a teacher and students with the right device (and services) to take learning to all new level that has aspect of fun packaged? Here is where the meaning of ‘Value’ gets assessed/realized and businesses should look out for ways and means to address this.

The glaring fact we are witnessing in the digital world is everyone’s interest in building apps. For businesses, this is the most relevant way to stay connected with their consumer base. With India currently at 150 million users using internet on their mobile devices, this is a significant opportunity to be on the face of a consumer. Apps take center stage on any given device (including tablets) and the opportunity appears picture perfect. While this is true, one has to also understand the after effects of not getting itright the first time. Great businesses doing well under the realm of a browser, have landed up as ‘Dead on Arrival’ (DOA) when the same service is being provided as an app. This leads to negative publicity and hurts the brand image. I have witnessed bigger brands bring down their apps off store when they have not landed well with consumers. In this volatile app ecosystem (volatility since leader board changes every week), a publisher does not get a second chance to make a first impression.

We are at a juncture where there is an abundance of apps (aka services) and with ‘Mobility, one definitely gets consumers attention (anytime, anywhere). This is new age and success here has a direct relation to how one channelizes consumer’s attention to address ‘Value’, leading to continued usage or stickiness. The trend emerged a while back, but is more evident today than ever before. Features get accessed across multiple form factors (different models and sizes). But it is about features which are consumed at ease (value) vs. an app which has all features (show piece).

Businesses in India are operating in the realm of ‘Devices and Services’, and app/service adoption is gaining traction. This can only become mainstream, when consumers are driven to the realm of value based services.