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Vacation Diary: Mobile Technology and Commerce in India

by Shashi Bellamkonda on July 29, 2011

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I am on a 3 country trip through Bahrain, Dubai and India this month (July 2011). It is fascinating to see how technology is used in different parts of the world. Some observations from India:

Mobile  technology: It seems like India has skipped the PC technology totally. Cellphones are everywhere. The cost of ownership of a phone is very cheap.  Most people I met said that they used pre-paid service i.e. instead of a monthly plan they buy prepaid minutes and keep recharging them as they use it. I tested airtel’s prepaid service that  gave me 2GB of internet for Rs.98 a month and works pretty well. Nokia and Samsung are very popular brands.

  • SMS  - SMS is very very popular. You can even get a SMS message from the tax department after you pay the taxes. Establishments like banks use SMS  messages to communicate with customers.
  • Phone marketing: Pre-paid  plan users get constant free SMS marketing messages from the providers giving free information or offers and discounts. Many users use Hash codes to get information on their balance and turn on and off features. Example dialing *123# gives you your balance.

Ecommerce : According to ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India) the online retail industry will reach Rs7000 crore (about $1.58) by 2015. Some highlights from the ASSOCHAM survey:

  • Prefer to shop online considering convenience to shop anytime during the 24 hours and one can collect detailed product information
  • Shop online to purchase products that cannot be found in malls and the local markets
  • Consumers in Mumbai ranked number one among top five cities followed by Ahmedabad, Delhi
  • 65 per cent of Mumbaikars saying they prefer shopping online and citied rising fuel prices as one of the primary reason they do not want to loiter around malls, traditional shopping hubs
  • Facilities like free shipping, product ratings/reviews, multiple payment options, product demonstration videos and free return policy largely influence the purchasing decision of consumers shopping online

The survey respondents who did not shop onloine cited these reasons:

  • Prefer to research products and services online and then actually buy them from a store (30 per cent)
  • Find delivery costs too high (20 per cent)
  • Don’t want to share personal financial information online (25 per cent)
  • Lack of trust on whether products would be delivered in good condition (15 per cent)
  • Don’t have a credit/debit card (10 per cent)

In a related article in the Deccan Chronicle (A newspaper from the city of Hyderabad) a shopper expressed confidence in sites like eBay, Flipkart and Amazon

  1. Domain Names :  The .in I domain the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for India. seems very  popular with a lot of billboards showing the web address as a .in domain name- and companies in India have their brand with the .in domains line airindia.in , tata.in. if you think of getting your own .in domain name definitely recommend getting your .in domain from Network Solutions
  2. 4.     Search :  being so used to using a search engine in a browser to find information on any business back in the US I was surprised that several people I met  used a service called JustDial . You call the number and tell them the query you want and they send you a SMS with listings and details. The JustDial website defines the company as “India’s no.1 local search destination. The company caters to over 57 million unique users.”   Justdial has started a service in the US too. Folks who told me about JustDial said the restaurant search was good.  Other services used are asklaila.com – In April 2010 Google ended it’s phone search.
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