Don’t Build for Bharat

Kartick Vaddadi
Aug 30 · 2 min read

Many services in India are designed for the top of the pyramid, the disporportionate few who fly regularly, own cars, have airconditioned houses, and have broadband at home. If you think everyone has broadband at home, only 6% do.

A few years back there was a recognition that startups should build products for everyone, just not the elites. This was dubbed as building for Bharat, as opposed to for India.

But we don’t hear much about building for Bharat any more. This hype train has passed us by, and good riddance:

For a company to make a profit (and therefore stay in business), customers should pay more than what it costs to make and sell the product. This requires discretionary income, money left over after buying essentials, that can be spent on a new product or service. But people of Bharat can’t afford this.

In addition to unaffordability, Bharat is unwilling to pay [1]. I noticed this again and again when consulting, including one joker who wanted a complete app—including UX design — for ₹20,000, despite having much more money.

Bharat can neither afford to pay for your product, nor has the willingness to. If something costs ₹100 to make, Bharat will offer ₹80, rather than the ₹130 your company needs to be sustainable.

So, build for the rich, not for Bharat [2].


[1] Being cost-conscious is different from being value-conscious. The latter focuses on bang for the buck, and asking “What do I get for paying X, and can I get something good enough for X/2??” Many Indians are value-conscious, which is good, because we should be prudent in spending our hard-earned money, and spend it only when there’s a clear benefit.

But many Indians are also cost-conscious, where they refuse to spend X no matter the value.

[2] This is unfortunate, because the rich already have enough options, and Bharat would benefit much more from products and services built for them. But they can’t pay for them, so your startup will fail.

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