Who will get the Next Billion Users online?

Yes, we are back after almost 8 months this time. And that’s why instead of 1×1, we are bringing to you 1×2. As you can make it from the headline, today’s topic is about the next set of Internet users or as the giants call them, Next Billion Users. But they are not from India, they are from Bharat (Non-Metros/Tier 2 onwards). There are 600,000+ villages in our country

The last 3 years have really set up the ground for Bharat to come online. On a macro-level, there are two factors – cheap smartphones from China & free data from Jio. But there are some micro developments that are not talked about on the media streets or fought for by brands. In today’s interview, we will cover not one, but two founders working on getting Bharat online.

Rakesh Deshmukh, Co-founder CEO of IndusOS – which is an Operating system that runs in 23 Indian languages. 

Rahul Jain, Co-founder COO of Flickstree – which is a smart video recommendation engine for Bharat.

P1x1Why start an OS when there are AOS and iOS already there?

RDIn our research & development phase for the product, we realized that in India only 10% of the current population consider English as their first, second or their third language. Therefore, to make India truly Digital, it is imperative to provide technology to Indians in the language of their choice. I had always believed that technology should have no barriers, and at that moment, I resolved to create a product to break the language barrier to smartphone adoption. The IndusOS platform supports English & 23 Indian regional languages and language technology remains the bedrock of every India-centric innovation that we introduce from Aadhaar integration in the OS to Recharge 2.0, which allows users to analyze their mobile balance and perform one touch recharge.

“Only 10% of the current population consider English as their first, second or their third language”

 

P1x1 – What is Flickstree? How did it start? Who do you cater to?

RJ – 88% of Indians can’t speak English (let alone read it), yet when you look at the languages on the Internet in India, it’s largely in English. Hindi is used by less than 0.05 percent of websites on the internet, Bengali less than 0.018 percent, Tamil less than 0.007 percent, and so on. 99.9 percent of the Internet is in languages that 90 percent of Indians don’t understandAn estimated 536 million Indians are expected to use regional languages while online by 2021, complemented by increasing affordability of devices and data charges and availability of more local content. It is estimated that Hindi Internet users (at 201 million) will outnumber those accessing the web in English at 199 million by 2021. India is expected to have 735 million Internet users at the same time from 409 million in 2016. Google has termed these new Internet users are NBU’s (Next Billion Users).

It is estimated that Hindi Internet users (at 201 million) will outnumber those accessing the web in English at 199 million by 2021.

Only 200MN users in India are currently consuming videos on platforms like YouTube and Facebook. There is a huge gap of about 250 MN+ users, people who have Internet through their smartphones, but do not consume video content online owing to few critical reasons:

  1. Deciding what to search is a problem for such users – they don’t prefer YouTube because they don’t know what to search there. They would want content to come to them rather than they going to the content.
  2. Typing and Searching on mobile is difficult. These users also find it difficult to type and search on English keyboard.
  3. Content in regional language is a necessity and not a priority.

P1x1 – What distinguishes IndusOS from other OS?

RD – IndusOS is India’s operating system and our competitors are global giants such as Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s iOS & Google’s Android. However, we have built a strong competitive differentiation in the market with our patented technologies. Following are the competitive product differentiation that IndusOS offers.

Innovation

  1. Brand Accounts – Contextual OS-level integration that provides an opportunity to India’s service & content providers to open a Brand Account with IndusOS & seamlessly distribute their content & services to India’s ever-growing smartphone users. Services such as Ola, Book My Show, Zomato, Dainik Bhaskar have all been integrated at the OS level.
  2. Indus Swipe – Translate & Transliterate text between English & a regional language with a finger swipe
  3. Word & patented Matra prediction (to capture vowel sounds) in regional languages
  4. Auto correction with over 300,000+ word database
  5. Indus Reader – OS integrated offline text-to-speech
  6. Hybrid Keyboard™ – Type in a regional language using the English keyboard
  7. Indus Messaging – Free text messaging between IndusOS users
  8. Recharge 2.0 on Indus Dialer – Dialer integrated Balance tracking, analytics & one touch recharge built for the 95% of the Indian mobile users who are prepaid customers
  9. Speech to text – This allows the user to speak into the microphone without having to type. (https://goo.gl/vM16EX)
  10. Aadhaar authenticated OS – IndusOS will launch the first ever Aadhaar Authenticated OS in 12 Indian regional languages which will use IRIS-biometric technology; the most secure modality for identification & authentication. The Aadhaar authenticated OS is expected to drive mass-adoption of Government-to-Citizen(G-to-C) services and initiatives for the 1 billion people in India who have already enrolled for Aadhaar
  11. UPI based payments – Indus OS users will soon be able to use their system applications such as messaging, contact book, keyboard, and dialer for a UPI transaction (https://goo.gl/c5LtvZ

Simplification

  1. Simpler & intuitive UI for regional language and first-time smartphone users
  2. Patented Regional keyboards in the natural order of alphabets for intuitive typing

Content

  1. App Bazaar – Regional app marketplace in 12 languages
  2. Integrated carrier billing for apps payment without credit card
  3. No email address required to download apps

P1x1 – What is your Unique Brag Value (UBV)? <Question credit to Kunal Shah – Freecharge >

RD – With Indus OS 3.0, we have introduced a revolutionary way to have India’s top services & content available to 10 Million+ users on our platform. This contextual integration provides an opportunity to India’s service & content providers to open a Brand Account with IndusOS & seamlessly distribute their content & services to India’s ever-growing smartphone users. Our unique partnership with some of India’s leading service & content providers allows users to seamlessly enjoy service benefits & consume content without having to download any 3rd party application. These integrations are intended to alleviate some of the critical problems faced by the Indian smartphone user; battery & memory. Since these brand accounts are contextually integrated, it maximizes user engagement and reach. The IndusOS platform supports English & 23 Indian regional languages. IndusOS currently has a user base of 10 million and the target of the company is to have a user base of 100 million in the next 3 years.

RJ – Through our patent-pending technology we make this set (untapped on video consumption) of 250MN+ users video friendly, by bringing the content of their interests and in their native language to them. Flickstree uses deep learning to identify user choices and serves custom content that they would like (user location, smartphone model and click history). With FIVE patents pending, Flickstree’s content curation engine, powered by Artificial Intelligence, is world class – it ensures only trending and viral videos appear in the database to drive maximum engagement.

It makes our model highly scalable and language agnostic wherein we are able to aggregate videos across any language in few hours across multiple topics.

P1x1 – We live in the times where companies are spending millions (few spend billions) to acquire new users? How do you acquire your users?

RD – IndusOS currently has a user base of over 10 million and we have already launched over 100 smartphone models in the market. We work very closely with smartphone brands to pre-burn the Operating System on devices before they are launched in the market. Currently, we have 10 smartphone brand partnerships including Micromax, Intex, itel, Karbonn Mobiles, Celkon & Swipe.

RJ – Flickstree is completely B2B focused – we help other consumer apps offer video feed as a service to their consumers. Already partnered with multiple players like Xiaomi (the largest mobile handset seller in India), and many other B2C mobile apps – which use our content on their app, for better user experience on their apps. These partnerships should already give us a combined exposure of 50MN user base in next 1 year. There are multiple other discussions in pipeline.

While most of these partnerships are in integration phase, organically we are constantly clocking 1MN sessions each month.

P1x1 – What content is Bharat consuming? How different is that of users of India?

RD – Out of the total time spent on smartphones, System Applications such as Call, Messaging, Contacts applications etc are the ones which are most popularly used across ‘Bharat’. In terms of content consumption, Online + Offline video consumption ranks the highest followed by Communication applications such as WhatsApp which is followed by Social Media applications such as Facebook & Twitter.

RJ – Low intent snackable vernacular content. Mostly funny, comedy and viral videos that have very low intent. Users of India mostly consume internet in English and watch variety of formats of content online including movies, TV shows, web series, high intent content like DIY, cooking etc

P1x1 – How do you make money or plan to make?

RD – In our mission, we are using smartphone as the medium to connect the digital world with the masses. Indus OS’s vision is to digitally connect 1 billion people in the emerging markets. We have the following three sources of revenue:

  • Licensing Fee to the OEMs
  • App pre-loads and deep integrations
  • Monetization of our very own regional language app marketplace App Bazaar

RJ – Most of these users who are joining the Internet bandwagon are from rural and media dark areas. TV, print or any other mode of traditional media never reaches them. But they have one of the most powerful mediums of communication with them- their data-enabled mobile phone. We will make money through digital advertising.

P1x1What is the market size of Bharat and when do you think we will reach the NBU? What is your reach today and how do you plan to grow?

RD – Our product is tailor-made for the population from the emerging markets. 1.12 Billion people which are the non-English speaking population of India is the opportunity that IndusOS has in the domestic market.

IndusOS currently has a user base of 10 million and the target of the company is to have a user base of 100 million in the next 3 years.

IndusOS’ vision is to connect & enrich the smartphone experience of 1 billion Indians with our innovative technology platform by creating an Indian smartphone ecosystem which is beneficial for App Developers, Smartphone Brands & the Government of India. With OS’ like Android, iOS & Windows; the same version is released globally across all locations. Digital awareness, language sensibility and availability of local content are overlooked by global players. On the other hand, Indus OS will continue to be an ecosystem enabler and work with app developers, smartphone brands and the Government to innovate in this space in order deliver the best regional language smartphone experience in every target market that we expand into.

We plan to grow the OS integrated Brand Accounts and offer a new way for Indians to discover the internet.

RJMore than 250MN. They have all come mainstream through different ecosystems like browser (UC Browser), Utility apps ( Xender, Apus) etc. We plan to grow by partnering with apps who are already catering to Bharat.

By May 2018 end, we are expecting a reach of more than 80MN monthly active users

P1x1 – Given the fact that we learn most things from China, what is the takeaway here?

RJ – In China, Toutiao was able to do the same in last 5 years and currently with net worth of USD 20 BN, it has 120 MN daily active users. Think of us as Toutiao of India for videos. They also grew by taking a B2B approach.

P1x1 – What should brands keep in mind when communicating with Bharat?

RD – Since the advent of the Internet, English has always been the single most used language online. This does not bode well for the people from the emerging markets where English language speaking percentage of the population is extremely low. For example, India’s 1.2 Billion population accounts for close to 30% of the entire Asian population and the percentage of English language speakers in India is a mere 10.35%. I truly believe is that for every user, it is critical to provide a localized version of the entire smartphone ecosystem. And this is not just about localizing the menu text, from system application to third-party applications downloaded from app stores, all apps must be served to a user in his preferred language.

The idea of localization often stems from the need to expand businesses across various markets but companies usually tend to achieve a lot more in terms of the affinity that they generate with the local masses. More than understanding the need of localized digital content, it is even more critical to understand the extent to which companies should localize their digital assets. It is not just about translation of content on your digital assets; linguistic nuances, culturally and socially acceptable norms play an equally important role in a companies’ localization efforts. Even finer aspects such as colors or numbers which could be used as part of the branding elements on digital assets need to be carefully looked at when localizing an asset for a market as they may be considered offensive or unlucky in the local culture. All in all, the brand must come across as if it belongs to that culture/country.

RJ – A Bharat user today is not an online purchaser but he is influenced more than the Indian user. He will still make the purchase offline but his decisions depends on the ads he sees online. So brands should focus on influencing his purchase decisions right from the start of his journey on internet. As this user becomes digitally mature (which happens after 4 years of coming on internet as per BCG study), he will also start transacting online. Brands need to jump into the bandwagon right now to bear the fruits later.

-x-

I attended a conference in 2014-15 where I first heard about the next 100 MN users to come online who would be non-English first. It seemed far from reality at that time, but not any more. There are large media houses, funded aggregators, tech platforms, telcos and of course the global giants (US and China) all working for these users. It will be interesting to see how brands will adopt their communication strategies and choose channel partners for these users. We have seen the India story now let’s see Bharat’s.

Thank you for reading. Thank you, Rakesh and Rahul for your inputs.

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