Globalization made English a phenomenon decades back. Most of the customer interfacing digital apps were written in English or other European languages as an ode to the first billion — people comfortable enough with technology to make it a regular feature in their lives — from learning, ordering groceries to paying bills. When we saw the proliferation of technology to the next billion — we changed the language. Prima facie, it was a good option even though intuitively, we knew there was more to it.
When we learnt that India has the largest FB and YouTube base globally and that our digital base grew by 400mm users between 2012–2015, we got happy and expected revenue metrics to shoot up as well. But reality was miles removed from our rosy expectations — many of these people made 1000s of Facebook friends and danced with aplomb on TikTok but did not purchase a book or even order a meal online.
Others like Sarita, whose father works as a daily wage labourer, sits atop a makeshift perch near their home in Mussoorie with their family mobile phone where the signal strength is decent to study. In Chandigarh lives Mrs Kapoor whose husband runs a successful import export fabric house; she finds ordering from their local chemist easier than availing attractive discounts on e-pharmacies.
Then there is Bharat who makes madhubani paintings in Jharkhand and sells to a popular online crafts aggregator through a mediator because he doesn’t know how to sell directly to the ecommerce company. He purchases the paints, canvas from a Tier V city nearby where he cycles 60 kms back and forth. There are millions of millennials like Bharat and Sarita who want to use the connections digital offers to set up businesses, learn new skills — furthering every area of their lives.
That’s when we realized that we made a mistake — we mistook adoption of digital content as adoption of digital commerce. To unlock the real commercial value at scale, we have to change the way we think about ecommerce. Mere translation into local languages and providing access is half the iceberg. The integration has to be deeper than that.
Digital expectations differ with the nature of content and the way it is consumed. Four factors drive this a) content, b) manner in which inputs are provided c) the use case and last but not the least d) the target group . A fintech user interface has to be nuanced to an apparel shopping experience. The next billion users also have different and nuanced target segments and lumping them into one category by language or income is a colossal mistake.
Companies such as Policy Bazaar and MyUpchar understood this when they set up call centers to help customers understand their online catalogue. Many other product led market models are adopting innovations around this, Youtube videos is one such example. Several such as Amazon Prime, Netflix are experimenting with pricing (sachet, discount, free trials) to attract and retain this customer. Jio, on the other hand, is single handedly leveling the playing field and speaking to their aspirational side. Since 80% of India’s growth will be driven by this sector, anyone who is anyone is trying to understand how to swing it in their direction.
At Ankur Capital, we found an interesting partner in Jiny which identifies the roots of this gap as thus a) digital adoption requires thinking in UI which is vastly different from the language it is created in b) digital adoption happens as a community and c) digital adoption warrants innovation. Kushagra was working his first job at Flipkart when he realized that he had 2 calls with his mother daily where he played a screen navigator for an online purchase or bill payment.
This gave birth to Jiny which provides human-like guidance within an app — it can recognize what is on a user’s screen and guides contextually. It speaks the user’s language and helps them navigate the screen. Set up in 2017 with the sole aim of powering digital adoption, Jiny partners with enterprises and startups who have access to the next billion and want to start selling, increase sales or increase stickiness — so basically anyone who wants a piece of the trillion dollar opportunity.
What’s more — Kushagra is the only one in the world with this graphical, audio and hyper contextual interface and is innovating further to create a more immersive user experience across different platforms. The metrics on retention and growth of customers has improved; and so has the experience his mother, Mrs Kapoor and Bharat have on select apps that have adopted Jiny’s interface. When Mrs Kapoor now runs the household on google pay, transacting ~ Rs 1 lakh, Bharat buys his art accessories online and Sarita has enrolled for free e-tutorials, we know that the next billion appreciates the growth technology offers as much as the first billion; and that interfaces that nuance for them will win them over eventually. With the largest young population in the world and the dynamism that comes with it, we are confident that hyperlocalization at a mass scale is a smart way to get people to adopt digital and stick with it in the long run.
Written by Ridhima Verma.