Digital Transformation in India: Better late than never?

1.3 Billion vs. 1.4 Billion

In 2012, I was studying Mandarin in a part of Beijing known as a student’s hub – Haidian district is home to over 15 significant universities including Baidu headquarters. When you’re living in China, it’s hard to miss how the fashion sense of the locals grows on foreigners. The Chinese like to express their individuality through their appearance. And what better reason to shop when the clothes are cheap and there is too much variety?

I vividly remember thinking to myself about their obsessive shopping from Alibaba-owned TaoBao – a shopping haven similar to Amazon and eBay. Even on a freezing snowy morning on my way to class, I would pass minivans dropping off ‘packages’ right outside the university, creating obvious heaps of brown cartons.

In China, online purchases generated approximately $121 billion in sales in early 2011 and about 80% of all transactions were done on TaoBao. Were people in India ready to rely on online platforms to shop? Was a China like digital transformation possible in India? Even though there were companies that established similar platforms in India as early as 2012, I can hardly recount a friend or relative shopping online. But there’s always a first time for everything, right? Cut to today, everything from my shoes, clothes, electronics, even my next doctor’s appointment is booked online. But are we really there yet?

Here’s a fact that’ll tell you exactly how far we are – Out of 20 top Internet companies in the world 5 are Chinese, one each Japanese and English while the rest are American. Even though India ranks third globally in terms of the number of startups, why can’t we find ourselves in this list? Two major factors contribute to this – digital access and digital capability.

Even though there’s not much of a difference when comparing the number of people in the 2 countries, at the end of 2014 India had approximately one-third of the total number of internet users in China. The government has finally expressed the desire to promote the Indian startup ecosystem and we have a long way to go before the Internet reaches Tier II and Tier III cities. Clearly, digital transformation is still in-the-process of arriving in our country.

Coming to the digital capability gap, a staggering 25% of the Indian population cannot read and write compared to China’s 5%. Taking this into account, it’s safe to say that making Internet accessible for all Indians is more a need than want.

Digital transformation: Ready or not, here I come

Digital transformation is the development and implementation of strategies that help captivate and engage digital customers.

Here’s a simple way to describe why digital comes first today:

Say I move to a new city and plan my housewarming party, I hire a party planner. After the party, I look for a plumber. To find all these, I go online and search for the nearest service expert available and I come across Urbanclap, a platform that allows a person to find the best service professionals.

Here’s another example, I want to consult a doctor, but I want to be sure of his capabilities and expertise so that I know I’m going to the right one. What’s my first step? I Google search him. I will probably come across hospitals where he works, his LinkedIn profile or better yet his own website.

The previous generation was alien to the whole idea of going online to find the right people. While they relied on services they found via word-of-mouth, things have taken a digital bend today. We don’t need to talk anymore. All we need to do is ‘search’ online. And we open a world of patient reviews, years of experience, work locations, accomplishments and so on.

Pure convenience on your fingertips.

According to reports and statistics gathered over the years, digital transformation not only helps improve customer engagement but the sort of one-on-one experience that digital channels offer lead to a high percentage of customer satisfaction. Big companies, like Myntra and Paytm or startups like Innerchef and Fassos make sure they respond almost immediately to customer concerns with packaging, delivery or even service quality. Direct customer relations with the company not only help resolve issues fast but provide instant organic feedback from hundreds, thousands or even millions of customers.

Did you know that most companies do not have preconceived blueprint and execution protocol for content strategy? To engage customers, companies require fresh content on traditional and social channels. And to achieve the utmost level of customer satisfaction, the focal point doesn’t just fall on customer experience but additional rich sources of expertise from company culture bred employees and leaders, who create quality content that acts as a catalyst in building the company voice and brand.

Since this transformation is still in-process, we face an obvious roadblock when it comes to old-school company campaign strategies. To engage a customer, companies now need to allocate budget keeping in mind digital marketing besides offline marketing. The creation of an event is not just about location, sponsors and footprint but also about social media presence, Google Ads and online content. Turns out Paid Social is an integral part of digital transformation as it helps reach target audiences and build brands by retaining ads on social media giants.

Overcoming these limitations and evolving with new-age digital strategies will help companies build a brand, create engagement among their customers and deliver smoothly. Much like Huawei who recently announced innovative solutions for 4.5G, Internet of Things (IoT), 2K/4K video and Safe City. Question is – in a country where less than 2 companies out of 5 have taken their business online, how far is the digital transformation dream?

Originally published on BWdisrupt Businessworld.

Startup India: A series of uninterrupted one-liners & an action plan

It was a huge deal. First time in India, the Prime Minister took the initiative to announce new and exclusive exemptions for India’s growing startup ecosystem. And why shouldn’t he? According to NASSCOM’s report, India stands at a whopping third place when it comes to the highest number of startups in the world. After the his stint in Silicon Valley, PM Modi grew even fonder of the idea of an independent India building strong, smart entrepreneurs. Love his governance or hate it, this is the sort of vision India needed in its Prime Minister.

The power pact day, 16th January, entailed 1500 eminent speakers, entrepreneurs, startups and government officials present at the event – by invite only. The day started off by addressing basic yet vital points – Why focus on the Indian startup system? How can we nurture innovation in India?

Followed by sessions in-conversation with the policy makers of the country, women entrepreneurs making their mark in the industry and eventually the announcement of the big action plan.

Felt like déjà vu when Modi ,yet again, emphasized on Setting up of a ₹10,000 crore fund for startups. 2 years ago, the finance minister announced the launch of India Aspiration Fund (IAF) but the financial plan is yet to be shared with the public.

Other points announced included – Lower government interference in business, a credit guarantee fund for startups and a Startup India Hub – a platform where investors and startups could meet.

While a startup India hub sounds exciting enough, my favourite announcement were the Tax exemption for 3 years and capital gains. But then I realized, not many startups would generate taxable income in the first three years! I still feel like the PM got a bit too ambitious when he mentioned the launch of a mobile app and website that would enable single point of registration for startups – all in a day. The same would be used for clearances, approvals and registrations. I’m all for this, but a government app that can smoothly perform these function would be a boon and almost sounds too good to be true, especially for startups that are just starting off.

Although the day was all about the action plan, the one-liners young entrepreneurs and seasoned investors threw at the crowd stole the show. Whether it be Softbank’s Founder, Masayoshi Son, “In 25-35 years, I have a feeling, this country will surpass all other countries in the world to become No. 1 (in GDP).” or the young 22-year-old starry-eyed entrepreneur Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO, OYO Rooms “I dream of a country 15-20 years from now where there will be more self employed people than the number of people employed by other companies.”

What can the Startup Action Plan do for India in the coming decades?

More startups mean more solved pain-points of the common man. More consumer based companies mean happier customers. This might just be the formula to a more content India. India’s increasing internet penetration is proof enough that startups are here to stay. The PM’s Action Plan is the perfect catalyst to shaping his Digital India, our Digital India.

Startups Are Here To Stay, Unicorns Might Fade Away #BigIdeas2016

Startups valued over a massive $1 billion are unicorns – you know that fantasy animal that doesn’t exist? In the recent past, Indian unicorns have been in the news. Whether it’s about something as celebratory as receiving huge amounts of funding series after series or a dramatic exit of a co-founder.

It’s been a few years since the ‘startup boom’ in our country and after all the gushing, people have now started talking about the possible burst of the startup bubble.

Will 2016 be the beginning of the end? I don’t think so. Yes, investors are focusing on more sustainable revenue models. And that should have been the case from the very start. But does pricey investors mean the end of startup proliferation? Nope. It only means the good ones, the right ones will flourish.

So what sparked the fear of the tech bubble burst?

One of the main factors – famous startups ended up firing hundreds of employees (on the grounds of reorganizing the company, etc)  in the past few months led analysts to come to this conclusion. While it makes sense for them to compare the rise of the startups to that of the dot com boom, the need of the hour remains unique startups set on the foundation to solve the common man’s problem – be it hospitalization or food delivery. In other words,

startups born with the aim to raise funds, gain immediate profit are bound to break in the long run while startups built for the fundamental reason to solve an identified problem – directly or indirectly helping the masses – emerge as the sustainable hero.

The much talked about visit to the Silicon Valley by our Prime Minister was made to digitally empower Indians and promote tech investment from around the globe.

Contrary to what people have started to believe, the Indian startup ecosystem is still booming.

On 16th January 2016, Modi will be announcing the complete action plan forStart-up India, Stand-up India – a programme focused to boost entrepreneurship that will help generate employment for more than 250,000 people by 2020.

For the first time, the Government of India, has planned to promote bank financing for start-up ventures. With this sort of unprecedented support and encouragement, it might as well be impossible to anticipate a bubble burst.

Previously published on LinkedIn.

Picture courtesy – flickr.com/photos/scobleizer/14213975068

Building A Digital Healthcare Community – Focus India

On 28th October 2015, Mark Zuckerberg came to IIT Delhi for his first ever Townhall Q&A. Like any other person working in the digital scene, I was eager to hear what he had to say. The same day I had the opportunity to attend a Healthcare Leadership Forum – RoundGlass Partners premier event at Le Meridian, Gurgaon. Here are a few noticeable pointers I’d like to share.

1. Having also previously heard Mark’s talk with Narendra Modi in California, I realize that his focus while delivering talks pertains to connecting the community.He seems to be on a constant pursue to finding more efficient ways to do the same. I reckon keeping that in mind, he had the titanium guts to introduce the internet to the world – again.

The existing population isn’t enough, he wants the world to be online – and he’ll be happier if that happens on internet.org

According to Facebook, 15 million people have already benefited from internet.org (out of which 1 million are Indians).

2. It was obvious Net Neutrality was going to be in the picture somewhere. When questioned about how much Facebook supports the idea of Net Neutrality – Mark was put on the spot. I suspect he was expecting this controversial topic.

In order to support what looked like a sincere belief in getting internet access to people who did not have any, Zuckerburg made a rather sharp statement “don’t get twisted & hurt those who don’t have a voice” to people who are already connected to the World Wide Web and are skeptical of internet.org’s motives.

Answering a relatively more compound question, Zuckerburg expressed his views on startups as well.

A person who believes in an idea, rather than building a company – is a person who is ready to create his own startup.

Companies that happen to have more co-founders tend to last longer than those that have a founder – mostly because of resilience.

3. How can digital health solutions impact 1.3 billion Indian consumers? – A very real tagline to RoundGlass Partners’ event

prachi tyagi healthcare forum

Recently established RoundGlass Partners mentor the disruptors of digital healthcare – and they plan to start here in India. While Founder Sunny Singhgave a glimpse into his life and what made him an entrepreneur, Pramod Bhasin, Founder of Genpact, elaborated how even though healthcare is the second largest industry in the world – it is still broken – catering to the needs of only 30% of the world’s population. He concluded by stating that innovation in India has happened already – but a need for a strong community to identify and solve problems remains.

Both these events confirm the surge in global focus on the digital healthcare industry. If startups in India alone are able to come together and build a community to solve the health problems of 1.3 billion people, imagine the power this group would have to change the healthcare scenario of the world.

Modi in Silicon Valley 2015 – What this means for the Indian Startup Ecosystem

Were you aware that the Indian startup ecosystem has reached approximately 2 million high-tech employees in about 14,000-19,000 startups?

With these staggering numbers, India has earned its reputation as the global tech Mecca (according to a U.S.-based research firm’s Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking).

The Indian startup boom is hard to ignore and caught the eye of our very own Prime Minister.

Narendra Modi might have his share of critics back home but he sure is a political celebrity among NRIs. The first Prime Minister of India to give fresh impetus to the Indian startup ecosystem, I won’t deny, I was curious to see how he would do.

At the Facebook headquarters, hearing ‘chak de India’ playing in the background as Modi and Facebook CEO Zuckerberg took their respective seats was definitely a patriotic touch that worked wonders with the present crowd. While most political officials rarely ever gather an audience in 4-digits in their home countries alone, Modi managed to attract a staggering 18,000 people at this unprecedented town hall in sunny California. While sharing a story about his initial days of struggle Mark narrated the story of how his mentor—Steve Jobs suggested he embark on a journey to visit a temple in India, while Modi revealed his insights on the marvels of technology—in hindi—which I found to be an especially interesting choice to make.

Fast forward to his speech at San Jose’s SAP arena in Silicon Valley was an unflinching attempt by the small-town Gujarati amidst tech luminaries like Shantanu Narayan of Adobe, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, John Chambers of Cisco and Sundar Pichai of Google.

Nadella modi

Nadela revealed an incident from his recent trip to a classroom in a rural setting of Nanyuki, Kenya where a group of students were engaged in a Skype conversation with another classroom located in a rural part of Andhra Pradesh, India. Satya Nadela elaborated on his vision to build data and cloud infrastructure – developing smart cities in India. This being apt to Modi’s quote on the Internet of Things “it’s been a long journey in a short time”. Think about how many doors this sort of technology opens in the healthcare sector alone. An experienced surgeon in a metro city can now instruct, guide and train doctors in Tier II and Tier III cities in real-time. In others words, it is now possible for a doctor sitting in one corner of the world to treat patients thousands of miles away through digital healthcare.

With Nadela committing to support the Indian government to provide broadband to 5 lakh villages across India, Qualcomm’s Executive Chairman Paul E Jacobs took this opportunity to announce $150 million fund dedicated to the Indian startup ecosystem. This chip-making giant is already involved in several projects in India – one such project is with the National Health Mission, to help frontline health workers assess sick newborn babies, with the ultimate goal to decrease high mortality rates. This project is one of several in the mission to change India’s current status as the top country with the highest under-5 mortality rate.

Acknowledging the vast potential of the Indian startup ecosystem, Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO accredited the progress of startups like FlipKart, Snapdeal, Zomato and Quikr – a few big names from over 3000 upcoming startups in India. He also took this opportunity to announce Google’s plans to enable Wi-Fi Internet to 500 railway stations, which will inevitably hugely contribute to Internet penetration in India.

Unfettered, Modi stood high and mighty with the tech giants of Silicon Valley with the aim to start Indian entrepreneurship and connect the country’s ecosystem with Silicon Valley. This visit is expected to digitally empower Indians, promote tech investment massively, ultimately leading to more investments and more jobs.

While it might be too soon to say that India may replace China as Silicon Valley’s frontier, the startup ecosystem is undoubtedly set to grow, generating employment for more than 250,000 people by 2020. President of the US-based startup accelerator YCombinator, Sam Altman showed his confidence in the Indian startup ecosystem by stating that he foresees India coming up with multiple $10 Billion startups in the next five years. With so much of time and most importantly – increasing dollar inflow, Modi’s stint may just have taken us one step closer to becoming a superpower.

Tweeting, Posting, Pinning – How Social Media is Changing Healthcare

An upper-class married woman in her early 30s’, Mrs. Kapoor (name changed) was surprised and slightly taken aback when she received a friend request from her help, Krishna. The story doesn’t end here. Since Mrs. Kapoor lives in a joint family, Krishna regularly uses Facebook messenger to ask everyone what they’ll have for breakfast from the comfort of his kitchen.

If this sounds alien to you, you will be shocked to know that according to Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the usage of social media in urban India has grown by 35%, (about 118 million users), while it has grown a whopping 100% in rural India (reaching over 25 million people) in one year. To further break it down, 96% of the masses are on Facebook, shortly followed by other social media giants like Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

We shop, we check our bank accounts, and we also check to see if the rash bothering us isn’t deadly – all online.

HealthWorksCollectives, the world’s best thinkers in healthcare, have some numbers for you. Out of 4 and a half hours that an average internet user spends each day online, about 3 hours of his time is spent on social media. Imagine the amount of content consumption! It’s not surprising that the healthcare industry has begun working its way into social media. To add to this, sources claim that about 40% of consumers believe the health information they found on social media.

Healthcare in social media is here to stay for more reasons than one: Medical professionals are interacting via social media to spread awareness on diseases, preventive methods, among other topics while patients are using this platform to share doubts, questions and receive health information. On a larger scale, public health agencies are using social media tools to schedule important campaigns and announcements.

Facebook – who doesn’t use it?

Once upon a time, this was a thing for youngsters. Facebook’s demographics are getting old, further giving accessibility to all age groups to health campaigns that are shared by hospitals and healthcare providers to create engagement and awareness. Credihealth, a healthcare startup, is one such example making a point to cover all health days and health awareness months, catering to both national and international audiences. Their most recent campaign was on World No Tobacco Day that used smart creatives to discourage youngsters from smoking.

140 characters of important information – Welcome to Twitter

Doctors, Hospitals and patients (or better yet twitteratis) are using this simple yet fast sharing platform to connect with like-minded people. Craig Hashi, who heads healthcare at Twitter revealed some intriguing statistics when he shared that 44 million cancer related tweets were sent out in the past year, even more so during Breast Cancer Awareness month.

“Pharma companies are the ‘slowest of the slow’ when it comes to changing their marketing strategy because they are so heavily regulated, but some are catching on to the trend of online video – Hashi said, giving examples of Novartis and AstraZeneca that have increased their presence on social media in the last 18 months.

There are new apps in the market like Periscope and Meerkat that allow people to stream live video through their Twitter accounts – this could be something that could change the direction of the market in the near future. In what sense? Well, for starters, any entity from the healthcare industry could advertise interesting content from a conference anywhere around the world in real time.

Social media on mobile phones is convenient, fast and influencing how people consume information resulting in a trend itself.

What’s trend-ier than sharing pictures of food, cats and clouds?

Instagram and Pinterest are the fastest growing social networks, no doubt. The healthcare industry players are sharing behind the scene snaps to establish a more personal touch with people. This also includes sharing patient journeys, promoting fundraising events and even medical techniques and procedures. While not everyone in healthcare is fully convinced to use Instagram, it’s hard to ignore 300 million monthly active users.

The future is expected to see healthcare companies integrating social media information to make customer interaction better and public health organization to reach out to the public quicker about important issues like vaccinations, new policies, diseases outbreaks and more. This will bring a sense of crisis readiness which means social media will act as an agent in informing doctors and hospitals almost instantly when a devastating event occurs endangering the lives of people.

After all, isn’t making lives better the whole point behind creating a technology that connects us?

Previously published as a guest post on iamWire.

Online healthcare ecosystem – Everything you need to know

We’re shopping online but when will we be selecting and buying customized healthcare needs? India’s healthcare industry will be in the focus for years to come thanks to the developing country’s ever-growing population and need for medical services in both rural and urban areas. India’s take on healthcare will be significant in deciding the fate of India as an emerging superpower.

We entered the digital healthcare space involuntarily when the term health 2.0 was introduced in early 2000s. This was evidence enough that healthcare was predicted to join forces with the World Wide Web. Little did we know, fifteen years later there would be more ways than imagined to connect with potential patients.

When it comes to marketing, the healthcare industry lags behind by at least two years, but that doesn’t stop it from being a trillion dollar industry.

The Indian healthcare sector alone is estimated to touch $160 billion in 2017 – roughly double from what it was in 2012 (according to a report by Equentis Capitals) resulting in the CAGR growth rate of about 15%.
From current trends, challenges and opportunities in the current healthcare scenario, catch a glimpse what the future in online healthcare holds in my guest post on iamWire.

While there’s no looking down for the healthcare industry, digital healthcare is emerging as the hero. Here’s to thousands of patients finding the right diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures online – this very minute.

Image source – commons.wikimedia.org