There are certain preconceived notions about the Indian smart phone market as seen by international app developers (iOS, Android). These has come across during my many interactions with international companies. The main fallout of these misconceptions is that India is not on the priority list of the markets the international app developers want to target.
Indian Smartphone market is negligible in size. They make up only a puny 5% of the handset base compared to developed countries. International biggies of the app world continue to focus on the north American, European and certain south-east Asian economies. This is only sensible logical thing for you to do as a savvy marketer. Put your money where your mouth is. Why customize for low priority markets? Why invest resources in a low smartphone penetration market. WRONG !
The problem is we are looking at the Indian smartphone market through the wrong lenses. There are very strong reasons why international developers should focus on India. Let me explain.
1. Larger than Singapore: Singapore is considered the role model when it comes to describing target markets by app developers. All south-east Asian developers are focused on this market. There is a lot of M&A activity happening on the App front in this country. If this is an ideal market then India defeats it hands down. Singapore has 8 mn subscribers (includes all types of mobile phones)Singapore IDA Report. The puny 5% penetration of India mobile market translates into a Goliath 45 mn smartphones. The Indian smartphone market is more than 5 times larger than the Singapore mobile market. Even with lower ARPU, the total revenue outstrips the Singapore market. This in itself is reason enough to start locating the country on the map and find local go to market partners.
2. Tower of Babel: There are 22 official languages recognized by the Constitution of India. There are almost 2000 mother tongues. Unlike Philippines whose script is the English Alphabet, each of them have the Indian languages have their own scripts. As a result, many companies believe that only a small “English educated” percentage of the 43 mn smartphone users can use the apps. So the Indian market is not worth targeting as real user base will be much smaller. However thanks to the British, anyone who can afford to buy a smartphone today in India, knows enough English to use apps and services on it. Obviously there is a for higher usage or engagement if vernacular scripts are used, but it is not a show stopper if a developer wants to target India. Indian smartphone users are English “aware”.
3. Growth rate: There are 2 growth rates which as a developer should make you jump of the fence if you are still undecided. Last year 25 Bn apps were downloaded in India. The rate of download is only accelerating thanks to the growth rate of smartphones. In 2012, 15.2 mn smartphones were sold by Apple, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Micromax, Sony along with others. That is a huge 20.8% growth rate over 2011. It is estimated that the Indian smartphone market will sell 44 mn units in 2013 which comes to a whopping 100% growth. It will be driven by sub $200 smartphones and these will in turn lead to exponential app download growth. The market has forced Apple to revamp its distribution while existing market leaders Samsung and Nokia push smartphones to even smaller and smaller towns.
So what are you waiting for? Be the early movers before the market becomes totally cluttered and you fight to find space for your amazing apps!