Friday, September 23, 2011

Internet in India

Google says India has over a 100 million Internet users, others claim the user base to be at close to 80 million etc etc.....

What is it actually? Well everyone has their own numbers and you can use the number you want depending on what you want to believe and whether you want use the number for a business projection to a potential investor or a presentation at a conference or to justify the slow business growth to your bosses.

What's intriguing here is that despite the claimed numbers and a lot of services and business being available on the Internet, we do not see too many people actually using most of whats available. How many of us in India use the Internet to pay our bills - electricity, land line, mobile etc etc??? how many of us use the Internet to receive or make our payments - salary, gifts, vendor payments etc etc??? how may of us really use Internet banking other than to check our balance??? how many of us use the Internet to book our tickets - Bus, rail pass, long distance rail tickets, air tickets etc etc??? how many of us use the internet to find jobs OR a life partner Or to chalk out our travel route???, Or to find places OR to find people OR to communicate??? and How many of us use the Internet to Buy - shares, mutual funds, products, services etc???

In my experience, while most people I know - and they are all educated and some are very well educated and all own a computer and an Internet connection and a smart phone - use the Internet for communication and to buy air tickets, and to find information, they don's use it to transact or to buy anything else or to get any other services. So whats most used:
1) E mail & Social media
2) Air ticket price search and comparison
3) Job search or to recruit
The rest of what's available is hardly used or used very very sparingly OR never used.

When asked why, the answers vary but whats common are "Oh But I don't need to!" Or "Oh But I tried it and its very cumbersome"
Need and Ease of use. If the need is there then the ease of use isn't or both are missing????
While the need may not be there for some (have an office peon or servant at home to stand in line to pay bills for example), its there for most (not everyone has the luxury of servants or office peons). Similarly there always were travel agents but then why do so many people use the Internet to book air or rail tickets, or use Job sites for recruitment rather than Recruitment agencies??? Its to do with need as well as other advantages such as (ability to check availability and compare prices for tickets, or a larger and more updated database for recruiters and job seekers).

I think the need for a lot of the existing available products and services is there but ease of use is the culprit in most of the cases. But why? Isn't that what CEO's, Product managers, and marketeers talk about all the time? Fulfilling a need and making it easy??? Lets look at the 2 items of what most are using - Air ticket price search and comparison, and Job search and recruitment. The need is there and thanks to the immense competition so is the ease of use. 

What we lack today are not really Internet users but good product and service offerings that 
1) Work most of the time
2) Are easy to use 
3) Add value in some way.

Sadly most of the businesses or services or utility providers adopting technology and the Internet today are doing it for 2 reasons
1) Because others are doing it 
2) To show that they too are using technology and use it in their marketing/advertising

Take for example a reputed private Bank that is advertising heavily about the multiple things one can do on their ATMs. Two visits to the nearest branch just to deposit some money had one turned back once and then made to wait for long the second time (after a gap of 2 days) as their 'Systems were running too slow". They have 3 ATM machines also installed at the branch and its common to find one or all three not working. 

Or a trading site of another leading reputed bank that was overloaded and hence could not accept transactions during the Coal India IPO.

They still haven't got around to doing it to 
1) Satisfy a consumer need
2) Offer a better service
3) Improve their offerings and reduce their costs

I guess it will be some more time before that happens, and till then we can keep talking of X million users but we will not see Technology or the medium making a REAL impact in our lives or in Value terms for the Medium itself.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back with a Bang... Or Is it???

Ok! So whats back? & with a Bang?

Me for One..... am back to blogging.... &
eCommerce in India.....

Me?? Well who cares if am back. More importantly what seems to be really back with a bang is eCommerce in India or so the media will have you believe. Open any newspaper or magazine or article on the web and every other day you will read an article or news of a new eCommerce website being launched or a story on eCommerce in India and how its the rage nowadays and how VC's are pouring money into Indian eCommerce start ups.

Whats interesting is how almost every article mentions an example of a small town girl or guy who has bought something from the Internet and is gushing about it. Well is that really whats happening out there? Have Indians all of a sudden found this sudden urge to shop online and people from non metro towns and cities started using credit cards online??? I really don't know how much of what is being said or written is true as real figures on purchases and company top lines and bottom line etc are still not available.

What I DO know is this:
1) India's Internet usage is increasing which is great. Though still not as fast as it should be. Claims of a 100 million users is not really accurate unless one agrees with the logic that someone who logs in at least once every month is an Internet user.
2) Number of sites and hence content and services on the Internet from India is increasing... at a real fast pace which is good.
3) We still have infrastructure issues such as non availability of 24 hrs continuous electricity in many a towns and cities across the country which means less time to be able to connect to the internet to do anything meaningful, low broadband penetration, etc etc...
4) Credit card penetration that is dropping each year for the past 3 years from its already low figures instead of picking up. Debit cards far out number credit cards in the country but usage ratio of Credit cards to Debit cards is 11:1 as debit cards are mostly used as ATM cards only.
5) Absence of a robust supply chain, and offline payment collection mechanism / service means those setting up sites for  e commerce have to set up on their own systems (increase in costs) or depend on existing unreliable services (loss of customer due to bad service).
6) No clear returns systems or policy even in offline stores which is even more important from the  eCommerce perspective.

So Yes! eCommerce is back. Is it here to stay? I definitely think so.

However they may not see break even or profits for some years to come as India has a lot of infrastructure, policy and also regulations issues to resolve and these are not going to happen very soon. Also let's not forget that we are a touch and feel kinda people whose idea of an entertaining evening out  mostly means going for a movie or dinner or going shopping with family / friends, in that order in most cities in the country. We get most of what we want in the mom and pop store next door and the rest in our so called entertaining evening or weekend shopping trips to the mall. So for what are we going to shop online??? Books? Yes ... but how many people buy an read books nowadays. Tickets? Most definitely as no one likes to stand in line. Electronics? Yes some of it. Ditto for the rest of the items yes for some, Maybe for the others.

Also I believe whats important for eCommerce to take off... really Take off... is for the Internet users in this country to first start using the Internet for all other regular activity such as Banking, Paying bills etc etc. The truth still is that if you ask 5 people in your close circle weather they have ever used their credit / debit cards online (assuming they have credit / debit cards) chances are 3 out of 5 will say No. If you ask these people if they have used Internet banking to receive or make a payment (not check balances) again 3 out of 5 will say No. Ask them if they use the Internet to pay their utility bills and again chances are 4 out of 5 will say No. Ask them what they use the internet for and all will say eMail and some will say for information. That's It.

Anybody who has or is using these services will also tell you that while they are happy to be able to do this their experience has not been really good. Not all Bank websites function well or are user friendly, Telephone and electricity websites are slow and tend not to work just on the day you decide to use these to make payments etc etc....

On the MSEDC website if you are trying to make the payment a day after the due date they do not allow it and ask you to go to their center to pay. That even when they tell you how much is the penalty for late payment, but for making the payment you have to go offline if you are even a day late.

A Nationalized bank asks you to go to your Branch and submit a letter if you have forgotten your password and made a wrong attempt x times. Then the letter will be forwarded by the branch to HO and then HO will send the new password back to branch and then you have to again visit the bank branch to collect it. That's Internet Banking for this Bank.

Its the issues like those mentioned above that hinder the growth of the Internet and  Internet based services in this country. As businesses and services we have to realize that this medium can help us offer a better service to our customer and give it its due attention. That is when people will start using the medium and that is when eCommerce will really take off.

Till then - Well it is great to read articles highlighting the new coming of the eCommerce age. At least now media is writing about advantages of the Internet and Internet businesses instead of the negative stories on credit card fraud, and other frauds that they are so used to writing about. Its time they told you how actually more fraud happens offline than online and how online is actually more secure and convenient. It's time they spoke of how the medium is helping business find more clients or people finding long lost friends. It's time they spoke about how a girl from Assam found a job in Pune or how a Guy from Punjab found a soul mate from Goa. Its time they talked about Internet business success and how it has benefited people in general and business too.

So Yes eCommerce is Back and yes this time it will be for good......  hopefully :-)


Friday, January 28, 2011

Happiness is a State of Mind

Happiness as per me is here and now! It comes from just - Being Happy. That we like to link that state of mind to something outside - such as wealth, health, prosperity, love, etc etc.... is our excuse for 'Not to be happy' - Well most of the times anways. Cos being happy is just that - being HaPpY.

But then first lets define (we humans love doing that - rationalising, logicalizing etc etc) what do I mean by "Happiness". Well for me its just something that gives us inner joy, satisfaction, fulfillment blah blah blah. It may bring a smile on ones face and it may not. It may bring tears or it may just be a feeling of accomplishment. All of it is or can be Happiness.

And where does it always come from. Inside, from within our being as we know it.
And what causes it - could be anything external or internal, BUT funda~mentally IT's mental. Yup its a state of mind. Ever been Really and Deeply Sad? And does being sad at that time and point in time make one feel full, complete and in sync with one self? Wll if it does then - as per me - that too is a state of happiness.

Happiness - as per me - is not all about smiling or laughing. Its about being CONTENT at that point in time, Its about being complete and ONE with Oneself.

So what do I need to be Happy. Just BE Happy.
Do or dont do what we believe or dont believe in - irrespective of the result.
Believeing in oneself or not
Be content or dont be

In other words..... Do or don't do whatever......... AND Be HaPpY

Confusing??? Dosen't make sense??? So what??? Just be HaPpY.....

Sometime we will talk about thinking and being +ve...... Well sometime.......

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nature - The best Aphrodisiac

Started the week with a weekend trip to Balaji Farms - A beautiful, rustic but comfortable farm house abt 90 kms from Navi Mumbai. Stayed in a village home and enjoyed a cool evening at the pond. Then an energetic chit chat with friends over a few drinks at the cool shack followed by a wonderful local flavor dinner.

A morning walk watching birds and the mist over the hills and water...... followed with a hearty breakfast and b4 we knew it it was noon.

What a fun~tas~tic start to the week!! Yes I consider a weekend a start to the week. Feels good to start the week with a Saturday and Sunday and finish it on Friday. That way not only am I closing the week at a happy note (friday night fun) but also starting it on a HaPpy note.

Monday morning was back at work - replying mails and reading stuff and communicating with clients etc etc...

Monday Tuesday - some work, some play and its a holy~day again today. Ah!

Wish everyone a happy week ahead.....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The begining?

Hi! This is my new begining in the blog world. Why so late specially since I have been working in the digital space for more than 10 years now? Well!! Lets just say I started many years back but gave it up due to time constraints etc. The actual reason is I thought - WHY Blog? and frankly I couldnt think of many reasons to do so. So Why Now? Well with the advent of Social networking and using only mail or im or sms abt 70% of the time to communicate, i finally felt the need to have one place where I could jot down my views on things, ideas, expressions, impressions etc and then if I wanted to communicate some of it to someone I could just link to it.....

So here I am.

This is just the opening note. From now on I plan to type out something whenever I feel the urge to do so....