Monday, 13 January 2014

My observations on Mobiles and OTT Apps in India

What a change 2 years can make. The last time I was in India, people were reluctant to use data, smartphones were far and few and even those smartphones were just status symbols rather than for actual 'smart' use.

This time a lot of things were very different. I found that there was a Phablet craze going on. No sooner were people starting to get used to these big screen devices they realised how many things they could do. The well to do were buying Samsung devices and the people who did not want to spend big bucks were content with the little known brands.

The Domo phablet on the left in the picture above costs around 8000 (£80/$130) and the Maxx on the right is roughly ₹5500 (£55/$90). Both these come with 1 year warranty.

There were also quite a few ads using celebrities promoting Phablets. Its good to see people spending on these devices. Unlike UK where most of these devices are subsidised on a contract, people in India prefer pre-paid option and buying the phone outright.

I have to admit that even though I am a fan of these big screen devices, I find the Samsung Galaxy Tab just a bit too big for the use as a phone (see pic above).

It was also good to see that people have embraced the 3G data usage as well. I got a 6GB package for roughly 1000 (£10/$16). I found that people complained about the speeds and were prepared to pay more for 4G (faster data rates). I also noticed that a few people were not aware of Wi-Fi and the fixed broadband. I was told that the fixed broadband was capped, offered similar prices and could be quite unreliable. I guess Wireless is helping in India where the fixed Infrastructure may still be an issue in many places.

I have to mention here that I did not meet anyone who was using an iPhone. This could be due to iPhone being ridiculously expensive and people may be thinking why pay a high price for such a small screen. A comparison of iPhone prices worldwide showed that the price of iPhone 5S as % of GDP per capita (PPP) is the highest in India. See here.

Another area of observation was SMS and OTT apps. I remember spending a lot of time trying to convince people to use OTT apps for messaging as it would be cheaper for International messages. Well, now it seems everyone has adopted it whole heartedly. One of the problems with SMS in India is that you get too much Spam SMS and sometimes the operators are the culprits. There is no way to send a stop for these SMS messages. With OTT Apps, you know who is sending you messages and you can block the offenders.

There are many OTT Apps which are popular like Hike, Line, WeChat, WhatsApp, etc. The winner though is undoubtedly WhatsApp. I met an acquaintance whose has stopped using emails for business and now relies completely on WhatsApp. Then there were others who loved it because of Group chat facility.

There were many reasons why WhatsApp is a winner. Along with a simple interface and Group chat facility, one of the other reasons pointed out was that the facility to see when the person was last online was very useful. Recently WhatsApp introduced facility to send Voice messages. This helped it acquire some of the WeChat users.

It was good to see the beginnings of the mobile revolution in India. Wonder what my next trip will show me.

Please note that this article is based on what I observed in Mumbai among friends and family. In no way should this be treated as  detailed research.


komatineni said...

True, the data usage is growing but still a fraction of population uses mobile data. Even in metros like Mumbai, New Delhi etc, or tech cities like Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad - I was told less than 10% people pay for data consistently in prepaid segment. This was again from a conversation with one of the operator and may not reflect the entire market. Often it's blamed on poor 3g connectivity, lack of reasons to use data. Still significantly expensive rates compared to voice calls. Lastly and most importantly people prefer to use cheap voice rather than data.

Zahid Ghadialy said...

I found this link which supports my observation that Phablets are growing in India. See here

Atul Deshpande said...

Good Post Zahid. In fact, many Indian & Global Smartphone makers found Phablets as niche to tap high volume in recent time.

Although I agree with you that these are bigger phones to hold while talking, but here in India, people are crazy to watch movies, play games on the go.

In Delhi, if you travel on metro line, you could easily spot the growing trends in mobile world without even looking at statistics.

Zahid Ghadialy said...

Cheers Atul. I think the trend in the west is changing as well. People are realising that they do not want to carry multiple devices and are opting for a Phablet as a compromise. Why do you think Apple is now working on the new bigger screens :)