Musings on leveraging culture to build successful consumer internet companies(in India)

Culture is very broad term. Almost all products are deeply intertwined with the socio-cultural fabric. What does it mean to leverage culture to build consumer internet products. One way to answer the question is by looking at consumer internet products whose core feature is an aspect of Indian culture.

I’ve struggled to convincingly arrive at an answer to this question for quite sometime. There are not many products besides the matrimony sites whose core feature is ‘search by caste’. Although these websites still live in web 1.0, these products thrive by leveraging our cultural bias towards spouse selection by caste. Such a feature doesn’t make sense in other countries because ‘caste’ system doesn’t simply exist there.

All of this led to more musings about culture. I’ve started to look at markets where Facebook isn’t the leader. One such market is Russia where VK.com is the leading social network. One of the things VK.com does extremely well is the instant access it provides to all of Russian content, including, but not limited music, movies and narratives.

Why isn’t there a VK.com in India yet? What does it hint at?

I also looked at SnapChat through the same lens. While Facebook is all about permanence in digital sphere, SnapChat challenged it by introducing disappearing photos. It has become emblematic of America youth culture. A particular segment of market now uses it to compose their daily narratives.

What aspects of Indian culture can be made obsolete by bringing in a new kind of narrative (and culture)?

Vast majority of India doesn’t speak English. Syllables, sounds, songs and stories are unique to every language and culture. Native speakers have ‘innate’ ability/desire to compose great narratives by creatively employing these linguistic tools.

Given that most of these narratives are in the heads of people, what tools need to be built to digitise them?