New Report Encourages Innovation for the Next Half Billion in India

Omidyar Network releases report to help entrepreneurs profitably serve the next 500 million Indians who will come online in the next five years

Mumbai, India, December 19, 2017 – Based on insights from 10 years of funding purpose-driven entrepreneurs in India, Omidyar Network today released a report, Innovating for the Next Half Billion, detailing how innovators can effectively reach the next wave of Indians coming online via their mobile phones over the next five years. Called the “next half billion,” these low- to lower-middle income Indians have very different income profiles, education levels, language skills, and social and cultural milieus compared to the initial Indian internet users.

Economic progress, increasing mobile penetration, and the rapid decline in data costs have enabled a growing number of Indians to become mobile internet users. Three in four adults now have a mobile phone, while almost 300 million have smartphones. All of this means that populations that businesses couldn’t reach before are now easily accessible, leading to a new wave of entrepreneurship. These entrepreneurs are looking to provide products and services that will improve the lives of the next half billion, a segment that was previously underserved and disempowered.

However, the “next half billion” use the internet differently and face unique barriers in their digital journey:

Entrepreneurs will need to understand and directly address these barriers in order to profitably serve this population. Localization will be key, particularly in respect to India’s variety of languages, but also in breaking in to spaces in social and communication currently dominated by U.S.-based platforms. Social and cultural perceptions are also hindering use of online services; for example, this population has not been exposed to the self-service shopping experience, so icons like shopping carts and language like “checking out” can be foreign and intimidating. Additionally, many in this population perceive the internet as a “bad influence” that will damage marriages, leading to limited or restricted online access for women, a key consumer demographic in the next half billion. Finally, this is a frugal population that will require highly affordable data services and innovative approaches to building businesses that can both earn their trust and address their needs in a cost-effective way. 

“The next half billion represent an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs,” said Roopa Kudva, partner and managing director, India at Omidyar Network. “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.”