With an estimated five hundred million new Internet users coming online in India over the next five years, social entrepreneurs must address the unique needs of lower-income consumers, a report from Omidyar Network argues.
The report, Innovating for the Next Half Billion (14 pages, PDF), offers insights from ON's decade of experience in India about how to effectively reach the next wave of Internet users, most of whom have different income profiles, education levels, language skills, and social and cultural backgrounds than current Internet users. While high rates of mobile phone penetration and enrollment in India's national digital identifier program should help facilitate access to the digital economy, the report finds, the "next half billion" face a range of barriers to getting online, including high data service costs, a shortage of local language content, and lack of indigenous apps.
The report also finds that current user interfaces are not adapted to the social or cultural expectations of lower-income users, who in many cases may not trust or have confidence in online transactions. What's more, Indian women, a key customer segment, tend to be reticent about using the Internet.
"The next half billion represent an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs," said Roopa Kudva, ON partner and managing director for India. "But for these startups to be successful, they need to truly understand their users — the barriers they face and how they can be addressed. We believe home-grown Indian entrepreneurs are particularly well positioned to leverage this understanding into both social impact and financial success."