[Contributory article for Business Standard]
India is one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets globally, and a fairly unique one too. One of the key statistics that stand out is that over 75% of Indians have a mobile device, but only 15% have access to broadband. Therefore, going by the fundamentals, it was always a mobile-first market waiting to happen, and the time has come.
This year, smartphones have shown smart growth to reach over 117 million users in India and are expected to grow to 205 million by end of 2015. 3G subscriptions are also expected to grow handsomely from 88 million users in 2014 to 173 million users in 2015. Both of these statistics combined make mobile phones the device of choice to reach out to the customers.
As customers are getting addicted to their mobile devices, one of the key patterns that emerge is the inherent desire for instant gratification – “I want something and I want it now”. This is the fundamental driver behind all successful mobile services, and e-commerce is no different. And when you start taking Tier2 / Tier 3 cities into consideration, where a lot of variety may not be available in physical stores and the smartphone is perhaps the only device with internet access, the shift towards mobile commerce starts making a lot more sense.
If you want a pair of shoes, you don’t have to wait for the weekend to go out shopping – just pull out your mobile and order them right away. If you did not get enough time to plan for that weekend trip, just drive into the city with your mobile in your hand and find the hotels around you. Sounds really convenient, doesn’t it? That’s the second key driver – “Convenience”.
With these drivers leading a dramatic change in the consumer behavior, the leading players in all e-commerce categories are already seeing over 50% of traffic coming on mobile, with this number being as high as 80% for some categories. And we are just at the beginning of this revolution, with significant headroom for growth. Imagine what would happen when smartphones become so cheap that every one of the 1.2Bn Indians is able to afford one.
At MakeMyTrip, we are keenly watching this space and are coming up with services that are available to mobile only users. On our booking apps, we have mobile-only features like the offline e-tickets and hotels near you as a result of which we see 40% of hotels traffic and 34% of hotels transactions happen on mobile. In October, we introduced India’s first flight-booking service in Hindi, only for our mobile users, and are extending these vernacular services to other languages such as Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.
I would therefore say that India is ready for a mobile only marketplace. In fact, Indian consumers have been ready for a few years now, but the perfect combination of affordable devices, mobile internet plans and consumer services has come together only recently to make this happen. India is well poised for explosive growth on mobile, and mobile only offerings may soon be the norm.