The recent release of a smartphone with a price tag of Rs. 251 (~$3.65) made headlines in India earlier this year. With features expected of any entry-level smartphone and priced at the cost of a regular meal, the Freedom 251 has brought to light a recent change in the commercial consumption of products and services in India.
As access to mobile technology and the Internet begins to increase to lower-income groups in India, the very fabric of consumer commerce is being disrupted.
According to an article in Quartz, "In October-December 2015 (Q4), India had toppled the U.S. to become the second-largest market for smartphones, after China." This has made India an increasingly important market for multinational cellular companies like Apple. In urban cities, everyone from domestic help, to unskilled laborers, to salaried chauffeurs, all of whom make less than $250 a month, has smartphones. They have become as important as any other utility needed for everyday life.
Low-cost smartphone manufacturers like MicroMax, Karbonn and Lava have taken the market by storm, taking as much as a quarter of all sales in smartphones in 2014. These changes, and the rate at which they’re occurring, are going to impact the existing mediums of commerce and the nature of the Indian economy significantly over the coming years.
Moreover, the rapidly increasing availability of mobile data has also been a significant factor affecting the rise of smartphones, acting as a catalyst to the growth, working in tandem with hardware.
In an article by the Times Of India, Aulakh mentions how different cellular providers are driving this change, “The rapid reduction in handset prices is being accompanied by speedy 4G rollouts by market leader Bharti Airtel, followed by rivals Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, in anticipation of a commercial launch of similar services by Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio Infocomm.”
The increasing affordability of data and smartphones are bringing a revolution in access to technology on the go, whether it's social media/messaging, transportation, banking, or even home make up services.
Given this increase in affordability and accessibility to smartphone and Internet technologies, startup culture in India has been booming. Companies like FlipKart, OYO rooms, Practo and Ola are already household names and have multi-million dollar valuations, and are changing the way people buy and sell services.
Practo, for example, has become the go-to doctor aggregator. People have adopted this huge change in personal healthcare astonishingly fast, leaving behind the word-of-mouth system of finding doctors and calling to make reservations. Several startups are now able to target low-income group market segments with apps, something that was unheard of before.
Technology has seeped into many industries, and many experts reckon this will be India’s key to growth in the coming decades.
A report by McKinsey Global Institute shares this sentiment, “The spread of digital technologies, as well as advances in energy and genomics, can raise the productivity of business and agriculture, redefine how services such as healthcare and education are delivered and contribute to higher living standards for millions of Indians by raising education levels and improving healthcare outcomes.”
The Indian government has also realized this, implementing changes that allow for an easy and facilitative path for technology to flourish. Businesses, old and new, are adapting to these changes to survive in the marketplace and keep up with competition.
With lower costs for products and services on ecommerce platforms, increasing jobs in the technology sector, a booming tech startup culture and increasing market size with large untapped potential, India is climbing up the ladder of technology consumption in the world very quickly, adding to it's repertoire as the leader in technology creation.
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