The Game Changes With Jio. Again.
We’ve written a fair bit about Jio. The graph above is an example. Since September 2016 you can see a demonstrable change in the growth of Music and Online Video Apps. That was the month when Reliance announced the launch of Jio.
Now they’ve launched the Jio Phone. The Jio phone is essentially a hybrid between a feature phone and a smart phone, where for Rs. 153/ month ($2.5/ month) you get unlimited voice calls and unlimited data. The phone will come preloaded with Jio’s suite of Apps — including Jio Cinema (take that Netflix/ Hotstar) and even provide a means to link the phone to your TV with a cable. There are a ton of additional features but you can read about these on your own yourself.
What does this mean for you? Firstly throw out the rule book.
The internet businesses that have been built thus far have grown off the back of users like you and I — the educated middle & upper class of India. To a great extent, it was easy to serve this user. We evolved liked our contemporaries in the west and east. We wanted the same things and had similar aspirations with some cultural adjustments. That’s why everyone could get away with ripping models off from other markets.
We’ve already seen the breakdown of plagiarism in Indian tech. the host of well-funded companies struggling to make ends meet is proof enough.
This won‘t work anymore.
To cater to this emerging class of Indian users will require a great deal of empathy. We will for once have to use our brains and come up with models that truly solve Indian problems and cater to Indian obsessions. This won’t be simple since the people in the driving seat have for so long ignored those who represented this population. We barely understand the motivations, fears or aspirations of India. We are, many of us, tourists in our own country — educated in private schools and out of touch with reality.
So what should I do? What can I build that will be relevant? What should my company do to stay relevant?
I suspect content apps will grow. You already knew that. What you probably didn’t think about was if your team was even qualified to serve this new customer. For example, the current class of content companies (listicles/ advertorials/ versions of buzzfeed etc.) can launch their own Hindi language portals but will their teams be able to churn out content that will appeals to this emerging user? Will this emerging user even appreciate this format? I would suspect that teams need to introspect and re-engineer themselves before they can serve this user.
Someone once said to me that in the English Media you need to criticize Salman Khan where as in Hindi media you need to present him like the star the audience wants him to be. I wouldn’t have thought of it like that.
Blue collar Job portals. This is a space that has been waiting to exhale for many years now. Since the beginning of cheap smart phones in India we’ve been asking the question — are we there yet? Now is perhaps a more opportune time than any other to get into this space. The problem with this segment has always been one of data redundancy. How do you build a job portal when people keep changing their contact numbers & don’t use e-mail? With a Jio phone this problem will hopefully get solved.
Lower the price point and focus on core services. There is no need for frilly services or an ‘Uber for X’ or ‘Book My Show for Y’. This user will want core services first. For example, if they can get real access to healthcare that’s good enough. If you can find a way to make it affordable — that’s amazing!
E Commerce and house hold utensils. The products these users will want to purchase will be the ones you and I take for granted. Like refrigerators and air coolers. Affordable fast fashion will come too I am sure. But they will fill the house before they reorganize their wardrobe.
The digital wallets that grow will be the ones you can refill with cash. Jio has its own wallet so technically they will incentivize the user to adopt it. With a network of offline recharge vendors, there’s no reason why they can implement cash refills.
If you’re on demand then this customer is willing to wait. For so long they have been ignored and abused that India doesn’t really expect anything right away. Their lives don’t hinge on quick service or instant gratification.
As always, Educate. There are many people in this space already, but try and understand — the market just shifted. The size changed and the segment moved. Entrepreneurship in technology is about serving the next decade. The user isn’t an English speaking child of middle class India anymore; he is more comfortable in Bhojpuri and has never seen those English advertisements of Byjus.
A lot of problem statements that were solved for India 1.0 will be relevant for the next wave as well like marriage, education and jobs. Beyond these how ever — we’ll have to relearn the rules we took for granted and rebuild business models from scratch.
Thanks for your time,
— Team KG
P.S. We’re looking to hire interns in social media and interns in general (tech, design & web development etc.). Please feel free to get in touch or pass this mail around to relevant people.
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