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Michael Müßig is a professor at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt and played a key role in establishing a university cooperation with Christ University Bangalore for the faculty of computer science and business informatics. As part of a renewed stay in February 2011, he took part in the social media New Face of Marketing and got to know Suresh Babu as one of India's leading web marketers.Download more from this author article as PDF
Almost 1.2 billion people, a booming economy and everyone speaks English - at first glance a paradise for anyone who wants to make money on the web. But a more in-depth analysis of the current situation reveals the problems such an economy has to struggle with, and shows us in Europe which important framework conditions are simply right here. Some typical Indian examples make it clear that it is not just a look across the pond to the USA that is sometimes helpful.
The worlds factbook - the basis
Of course, the metropolises Delhi, Mumbai (Bombay), Calcutta and, not only because of the IT boom, Bangalore: conglomerations with 8 to 22 million inhabitants are known. In fact, around 840 million Indians currently live in so-called “rural areas”, in other words in the countryside. And that cannot be compared with Idar-Oberstein or Neustadt an der Irgendwas; even an Austrian high mountain village is closer to what is commonly referred to as civilization. These areas in India were and are partially inaccessible for basic goods such as food, drink and electricity, so that there are currently only around 5.54 million Internet users. While Germany is currently given 65 million Internet users, there are only 61 million of them (CIA Factbook) or 81 million (according to internetworldstats.com) in India as a whole. In the world rankings by numbers, places 5 and 6, but if you sort by relative proportion, then the real difference becomes apparent. But one could be jealous of the values for “mobiles”: 670 million cell phones are registered in India - a MUST also for poor and poorest Indians for the connection charges that cannot be converted into decimal euro cents. Yet another important element is still missing for really relevant e-commerce: only around 2% of the Indian population have a credit card - and this is not only due to the lack of income, but also to a pronounced aversion of the population to “cashless” transactions. This means that other online payment systems are not common here either. Only CC Avenue and PayPal allow online business to be carried out in the local currency, the rupee. For cultural reasons, you want to touch goods before you buy them, and the “human connection” to the seller plays a major role. Most suppliers can or do not want to deliver until the money has already been credited to their account. In addition, the logistics systems in the subcontinent are neither fully developed nor cheap. Amazon needs 18-31 working days for a standard delivery to India and charges 13.99 USD per delivery, which corresponds to approx. 4 USD per item.
The current status
The most popular and cheapest form of marketing to date to reach the masses has of course been SMS marketing. However, the "Telekom Regulatory Authority of India" (TRAI) has announced new ways to protect consumers from SPAM marketing SMS and calls in the future. In spite of this, mobile systems will also represent the mainstay of the future development of an e-commerce infrastructure in the Internet sector. The growth rates compared to stationary Internet in connection with more stable and faster connection options provide the necessary basis.
While online shopping for material goods requires a radical change in behavior among consumers - which will take even more optimistic forecasts after a few years - other forms of use are already in the focus today: travel planning and booking, regardless of whether it is a flight, train or the widespread bus traffic, Cinema or concert tickets have given the transport and entertainment industry an important place in the e-commerce eco-space. The "Indian Railways Online Passenger Reservation Systems" (IRCTC) is one of the top sites in this area. IRCTC has more than 16 million registered users (i.e. around a quarter of all Internet users) and sells over 255,000 tickets on an average day. In addition, IRCTC has cooperations with various banks and also offers “prepaid cash cards” to make online transactions easier for all users - a proprietary debit card system, so to speak. Red Bus, the "online bus booking reservation service in India" has built the largest network among bus companies, so that tickets can be booked online for over 700 travel companies with more than 100,000 routes through India.
Other important travel sites are Make My Trip, Yatra and Clear Trip.
In this respect, the list of the TOP 10 commerce sites in India is not surprising either:
Indian Railways: https://www.irctc.co.in/
Make my Trip: www.makemytrip.com
Book my show: www.bookmyshow.com
Red bus: www.redbus.in
Snap deals: www.snapdeal.com
Amazon is not represented with its own offer - the similarities at infibeam are certainly more coincidental. Homeschop18.com advertises with a "Pay Cash on Delivery" function, comparable to a cash on delivery order in Germany.
But of course social media also play a major role. Only recently, Facebook Orkut overtook first place among social media offers. The breakthrough comes here too through the possibilities for use on smartphones. Even users with little technical training are now able to take part. AirCell has made it possible for its customers to update their Facebook status via “Voice Call”. However, dissemination is made more difficult by the diversity of languages. There are more than 24 official languages in India. Here, appropriately adapted offers are still not fully developed, so that there is still great potential among the 70% Indians who speak no or no good English.
The popular social media platforms in India include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr, well-known representatives in this country, but there is, for example, a very successful network limited to social games with ibibo.
Partnerships between YouTube and the Hindi film industry (“Bollywood”) and live reporting on cricket (somewhat more important in India than football in our country) make the offers more widely known and are essential for the phenomenal growth in this area.
“Group buying sites” such as Snap Deal and Taggle India are growing with location-based offers, which is starting to be very promising due to the aforementioned e-commerce restrictions with regard to payment and personal contact. Groupons was also recently launched for India and Ebay is following this trend so localized offers could become an exciting topic.
Interesting and meaningful offers
Of course there are initiatives in India to make Internet use “palatable” to a broader segment of the population. One of these is ITC's ECHOUPAL (www.echoupal.com), which started in 2000. Founded by one of India's largest agricultural exporters, it now reaches over 4 million farmers. Among other things, it contains weather information, but also current statements on market prices for grain, soybeans, rice, shrimp, etc., which prevents producers from being fobbed off by traveling traders with rock-bottom prices. At the same time, the supply chains and the exchange with dealers are supported. Today, ECHOUPAL is an important and rapidly growing platform with which small farmers can also optimize their business. With over 6,500 real kiosks you can reach approx. 40,000 villages in 10 states.
Another version is the Google Internet Bus project: not an Indian street view, but rather an Internet view on the street. Its aim is to explain to people, especially in rural areas, what the Internet actually is and what advantages it brings to everyday life. This is where the basis for the further spread of the Internet is actually being laid.
One of the greatest challenges is the establishment of accepted and faster payment systems that take into account the cultural and legal peculiarities (limited convertibility of the currency) of India. Here you can see opportunities in the area of mobile payment and other billing alternatives, some of which could be derived from the microcredit environment. The way of reimbursement must also be clearly provided for.
The Internet, especially more specific topics such as Internet marketing, social media, etc., is not yet a separate topic in Indian colleges and universities. The students are not familiarized with developments in the digital world either in general or specifically. In this respect, internet marketing is still clearly in its infancy. Conferences, seminars and workshops have only gained some popularity in the last two years. The “Click Asia Summit” in Mumbai in January 2011, the “India Search Summit” and the “IAMAI Digital Marketing Conference” as well as the “OME Community and Web Marketing Academy's Search Marketing Summit” in Bangalore this February show that this is where the community only finds. Despite these restrictions, growth rates of 70% annually or even 500% in the last three years are certainly values that would make a European manager in the Internet business sparkle.
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