May 30, 2012

India 2012

By Manish Mishra, VP Business Development and Country Manager (India)

It would be difficult to overstate the tremendous growth in India's mobile market over the past few years . . . and the increasingly important role mobile plays in retail advertising.

Whether you want to see a preview of the latest Bollywood film, check out a new car or go shopping, you can do it from an Indian phone.

Thanks in part to increased penetration and cheaper smartphones, m-Commerce is becoming more accepted everyday. But unlike a few years ago when Indian mobile ads mainly promoted direct sales, marketing and branding is back!

India by the Numbers
  • There are more mobile phones in India than in any other country, except China. In fact, there are more cellphones in India than in the United States, Brazil and Indonesia (the next three countries on the list) combined.
  • And there's still room for growth. Mobile penetration is 76%, slightly below the global average of nearly 80% and significantly lower than countries like the UK and Russia, where there are more mobile phones than people.
  • India is the largest market, in terms of the number of ads served, on the BuzzCity Advertising Network. During the first quarter of the year, we delivered more than 11,000,000,000 ads.
  • Four of five Indian mobile users owns a phone that can surf the web
  • Indian mobile users, by the way, are predominantly male (85%) and in their 20s (63%).  Three channels of content dominate their time online:  Glamour & Dating, Mobile Content and Entertainment & Lifestyle.

Bollywood on Mobile

A sign of how mobile advertising has become mainstream is the rapid adoption of the medium by Indian movie makers.

Almost every Bollywood studio uses mobile now to promote their films. Take for example the 2011 science fiction hit Ra.One starring Shah Rukh Khan. In addition to using ads to direct mobile users to its YouTube channel, Ra.One teamed up with Nokia to become the first Indian film to use Near Field Communication technology (which is a bit like bluetooth) to market itself.

Symbian Belle smartphone owners were given access to exclusive film content -- images, apps, games and promos -- as well as chances to win tickets to special screenings.


A number of movie producers are also tapping mobile as an alternative revenue stream to sell paid content. This makes perfect sense, considering that 44 percent of Indian mobile users buy digital content with their phones. This percentage rises to 70 percent for smartphone users, according to a survey by eBay, which notes that mobile shopping is the third-most popular search category for Indian smartphone users, after email and social networking.

e-Commerce in India was at first has dominated by a few major travel portals (Yatra, Makemytrip etc) and classifieds (Naukri jobs, Shaadi matrimonials). Mobile payment gateways like Ng Pay and Paymate as well as local shopping sites like Flipkart have become game-changers, creating virtual mobile malls and tying up with online merchants. Now, there's much greater diversity in the type of items for sale, from groceries to fashion to jewellery and furniture.

Banks, schools and car makers are all making mobile an integral part of their sales and marketing strategies. Ford and Tata appear to be focusing on the growing numbers of mature wage earners on the mobile internet. Educational institutions are promoting courses to India's youth, which financial institutions like Citibank, HDFC and Standard Chartered offer mobile banking and payment services.

Not just the Big Guys

Mobile marketing received an unexpected boost late last year from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which clamped down on SMS spam. TRAI's rules created a National Customer Preference Registry, the equivalent of a 'do not call, do not message me' list preventing companies from sending unsolicited messages to consumers.

In the face of these new rules, small service-oriented companies like pizza makers and others are increasingly turning to different mobile solutions like QR and AR codes, apps and mobile ads.

What's Next?

As handsets continue to drop in price, the mobile penetration rate will continue to climb . . . as will mobile advertising.

The general consensus in India is that overall ad growth is going to slow down this year, from about 12-13% to single digits. However digital allocations are going to account for a greater share of the pie. In fact, advertising on the internet and mobile should jump some 40%.

Businesses need to reflect on the best ways to engage India's mobile consumers on a daily basis. Whether you represent a national company or a local service provider, the key lies in looking at how mobile users consume content and the types of content that they demand.