If data is the new oil, then India might be the next Saudi Arabia

data-is-the-new-oil-for-india | ChineeKum | Cheeni Kum | Cheenikum | Chinee Kum

A couple of months ago, two unprecedented events took place, that too, pretty much on the same day. One was the historic drop in global oil prices, with some traders and countries willing to pay to take oil off their hands. The second event was the announcement of the Facebook-Jio deal, where the tech-giant bought nearly 10 percent of Reliance’s Jio digital platform, the firm’s telecom and internet subsidiary. 

So what is so ‘unprecedented’ about these two seemingly unrelated incidents? In 2019, when Mukesh Ambani borrowed mathematician Clive Humby’s quote that said, “data is the new oil”, he could have never imagined it to come to fruition this year on that particular day – the day when oil plunged, and data soared.    

When data drives the economy

In their recent report, Digital India: Technology to Transform a Connected Nation, McKinsey Global Institute reports that Indians consumed approximately 100 times more data in 2018 than they did in 2014. The average per capita usage rose from 3.1 GB per month to 8.3 GB per month in four years. Also, the average monthly internet charges fell to 0.1% of GDP as compared to 6.1% in 2014.

More importantly, the report also states that India’s data-driven economy can contribute up to $150 billion to the GDP if its full potential were realised by the year 2025. Digital automation can alone save around 25% of otherwise wasted revenue and can boost employment by creating 20-25 million job opportunities. 

The untapped potential

India’s monthly active internet users are predicted to reach 640 million by the end of this year. All thanks to the Covid-19 induced lockdown that has forced people to stay indoors and rely on data to stay connected with each other. Currently estimated at 574 million, the number of monthly active internet users grew 24% over the last 12 months, which points to an overall data penetration of 41% compared to last year. 

According to the data consulting company Kantar’s ICUBETM report, India’s rural areas are where the next digital revolution is taking place. Of the 41% data penetration that we mentioned earlier, a whopping 29% came from rural India. This year alone, rural India added 260 million new internet users and this number is expected to cross 300 million by the end of 2020. Local content and video essentially drove the digital boom in rural parts of the country, with mobiles were the device of choice for more than 95% of users who accessed the world wide web. 

This new decade has ushered in drastic changes that affect how India does business. Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst to speed up this process and connect the rural parts of India with IoT devices, payments, e-healthcare, and e-commerce. 

Next Billion Users

In 2015, two Indian-Americans, Sundar Pichai and Caesar Sengupta coined the term ‘Next Billion Users’ during an event at Google’s HQ in California. The term is now used to describe the digital opportunities in emerging world markets. But if we were to assume, the Google executives were most likely referring to India, considering the company launched a slew of India-first products which included Google Pay, YouTube Go, YouTube downloads, and even the Neighbourly app. Google has also actively invested in Jio Platforms, confirming the fact that India is poised to introduce a billion new users to the digital landscape, something no other country in the world can claim in today’s day and age.

India’s untapped consumer base has to be a part of any company’s marketing strategy for the next two decades at the very least. The massive Facebook-Jio deal might be an indicator of just that. Digital services today are an unavoidable commodity for Indians. This has been largely made possible due to the combined efforts of the Government (for implementing the Digital India vision), telecom companies (for providing affordable data and better connectivity) and service providers (for entertainment content, e-commerce and healthcare).

We agree that navigating through these difficult times and expanding digital infrastructure at the same time won’t be an easy task. But it is one of those golden keys that can unlock India’s growth and prosperity. It will not only expand India’s digital footprint but will also help us achieve the $5 trillion economy dream; the rewards of which will be available to hundreds of millions of consumers and businesses.

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