Indian Problems need Indian Solutions
If only one thing can be said about India in the past decade, it's that the last decade was the decade of startups. India is navigating through a startup boom and the pace is only going to increase in the next decade as the Indian economy grows bigger and access to technology gets more traction.
We saw, in the last decade, startups flourish in the Indian market gaining user base and establishing confidence. Some of them became unicorns. Some of them got acquired by international giants. Some of them are trying really hard. All this has been made possible due to the aggressive adoption of technology by the mass market, novel government programs and policies in recent years and the revolution in open-source software.
But it's not all sunshine and roses. A large number of startups failed too. There are many reasons than can be attributed to this outcome but the one that we are going to focus here is that the business models that have worked in the west don't necessarily warrant that they are going to work in the Indian peninsula. Most startups have come to this realization by now and the new ones are starting out keeping this in mind. In short, Indian problems need Indian solutions.
When it comes to solving problems, India poses some unique challenges that can be attributed to factors like demographic differences in the behavior of consumers, the disparity in income and education levels, government policies, language barriers, cultural diversity, etc. You can't build a one-size-fits-all solution for the Indian public. To build solutions at scale, a deep knowledge of problems rooted in geographies and cultures is necessary. Global giants struggle on this front. Although they have established business in urban areas, they find it hard to penetrate into second-tier and third-tier cities where the major part of the population resides.
India is a developing economy. And the rate with which it's population is growing, it's going to be in a developing state for a while. With the adoption of technology in the masses, the desire and aspirations of people especially the young population to move higher in the food chain are growing at an unprecedented rate. The most important change that has swayed the country by a storm is reducing data cost and mobile phones getting cheaper and better every day making accessibility to the internet a trivial issue. This has opened a pandora box of possibilities. It really is uncovering the potential of the talent that the young population possesses.
India has become ground zero for technological innovation. The trend in moving abroad for better financial prospects is decreasing gradually. People have started creating indigenous solutions in every part of the country now. Let's take a look at some of the unique as well as interesting solutions that have emerged in recent times.
Startups like Meesho are harnessing already established platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook enabling people to start businesses from home with almost no cost and friction of setup. Seeing the adoption of e-commerce, more and more small businesses are coming online. But most of them don't have specialized platforms like Shopify to set up their businesses quickly and start selling. Therefore, they have to rely on Facebook and WhatsApp to connect to their customers which have been quite unstructured and inefficient. Oftentimes, customers get spammed with tons of messages with new product catalogs from sellers resulting in bad user experiences. Meesho has provided these businesses a one-stop platform to catalog their products, chat with customers and accept payments via WhatsApp links. This truly shows the power of tech and serves as a perfect use case of harnessing existing tools and providing an efficient solution without much learning curve for the end-users.
Intracity transportation is a big pain point in urban areas. With dense populations and weak public transport infrastructure, people struggle daily just to get to work or even move around the city. While the advent of startups like Uber and Ola has made easier for people to move around the city, they are still quite expensive options for the common man. Quickride is an emerging startup that allows people to carpool for work. This is quite an interesting business model where there are three beneficiaries instead of two in a single transaction. The owner of the car receives a payment from the rider which they can convert to cash. The company charges a small commission on this payment and the rider gets a nice and safe ride.
Bounce is another exciting startup that is providing a last-mile pickup and drop scooter service for small routes within the city using the Internet of Things technology. Since India doesn't incorporate a strict one-way system in most of the cities, large numbers of four-wheeler vehicles create a lot of traffic and also are a huge contributor to air and noise pollution. Two-wheeler vehicles are the quickest and one of the most economic ways of commute but compared to the population that resides in cities, the usage is very low. This deficit is being harnessed by Bounce by providing people on-demand scooters through a mobile app. It has already turned out to be a great success.
Dunzo is the most interesting startup that I've encountered in a while. It is providing hyperlocal task delivery service for busy professionals by partnering with delivery agents. In simple terms, you have some tasks which involving moving around the city, for example, buying something from a grocery store, picking pizza from a pizza shop, picking up a birthday cake, handing a package to a friend in the same city and delegate this to Dunzo by making a list in the app or selecting a curated task that the company call "flows". This is very efficient for people already wasting a lot of critical time getting stuck in traffics and running errands. And with a growing customer base, the price becomes cheap. After all, time is a more valuable resource than cheap money for working professionals living in cities.
All these solutions have one common attribute i.e., they are cheaper than their alternatives and traditional solutions. In India, people are extra skeptical about when it comes to spending their hard-earned money. The price of a product or service is the most important differentiating factor here. It's a highly competitive market where businesses struggle on the price front. To provide a solution at scale, there's no option but to provide it at a cheap price than the competitors. And to provide cheap solutions, the solutions itself have to work at scale to amortize the cost of building over the usage by the consumers.
The Internet has proved to be a boon for the Indian economy. Companies like TikTok have already proved its mettle by expanding into remote corners of the country. Due to it's zero marginal cost of distribution, internet-based software can be used to provide solutions where traditional solutions have failed hopelessly. Innovative solutions are coming up every day solving India's longstanding problems ranging from agriculture to women's safety. From one-click transactions to one-click transportation. From easy access to education to taking small businesses online. More and more people in India are buying mobile phones and coming online. The combination of cheap data and low-cost phones is going to play a critical role in the next decade.
India looks at a new breed of energetic entrepreneurs and determined problem solvers with the start of a new and promising decade. Thanks for reading. Please provide your valuable feedbacks by writing to me at twitter.