A decade back, no one would have ever imagined that KFC, predominantly a fried chicken food chain would ever include a vegetarian item in their menu. And not just include one, but advertise the same as the company’s USP as well.

That explains the “100% Veg Paneer Zinger” ads in KFC outlets, quite visible in Indian cities, but what you are unlikely to see on a KFC window in its home country of USA. The franchise that helped build an empire on cooking up “Finger Lickin’ Good chicken”, is advertising its vegetarian credentials as its USP. It’s a metamorphic switch in the business strategy, but it makes perfect business sense if we look back considering that there is a sizeable proportion of Indians who are pure vegetarian and may not have expected vegetarian food at KFC, if not promoted.

It’s not a one-off instance of a paradigm shift in the key critical success factor; it’s visible everywhere. In fact, the single biggest contribution to the internet and digital inclusion at the grass root level is that businesses today no longer rely on a market-driving strategy, but are becoming more and more flexible to switch over to predominantly market-driven strategic innovations.

Various marketing case studies have revealed that MNCs brands across diverse business verticals, from Hyundai to P&G, from Samsung to Coke, have all ended up customising (or even innovating new products) to succeed in the Indian market. Even to the extent that they extended themselves way beyond their comfort zone or core DNA.

Beyond the internet and digital inclusion, there is something more that is happening in the Indian market, which is remarkable and has the potential to transform the fundamental economic milieu of doing business in the Indian market. It’s the new government’s “Made in India” initiative, which is not at all a regressive slogan with a narrow jingoistic appeal to eliminate foreign goods. It’s, in reality, a powerful call invoking entrepreneurial community to provide a viable local alternative using our intuitive cultural understanding of the Indian market. It represents a fantastic opportunity for local startups and SMEs to offer a healthy competition to large MNCs using the power of ideas and the inherent strength of the Indian market.

Potentials are infinite for capturing the local essence and the spirit of the domestic market. Can anyone ever imagine mixing Italian dishes pizza and pasta and coming up with a fusion recipe!  This is what Manoj Pasta, a roadside food stall in Mumbai’s plush Cuffe Parade has come up with offering ‘red pizza pasta khichiya’ at a premium price. The dish has not just been accepted in its new blend but is selling like a hot cake, even attracting the city’s elites. Mukesh Ambani’s son is said to be a regular visitor to this place! Not even Italians could ever think of mixing pasta and pizza, and on top of that blending, the combination with a Gujrati papad could have been done only by an Indian brain. An Indian mind, who could not only understand what the Indians like but also create a magic potion to suit their taste buds, thanks mainly due to his growing up years seeing endless varieties of spices and herbs being used differently in various recipes in the mom’s kitchen.

Isn’t it surprising why the same magic is not created in other business verticals? Take the case of the in-thing in the mobile phone market and the digital landscape – the mobile apps domain. Apps are being developed in Indian markets, by Indian developers, but they are all using the foreign flavours. The underlying technology framework that Indian app developers work with is a foreign one. And I believe that we need to work with Indian-developed frameworks, to build apps that are more in sync with the Indian market.

The programming languages predominantly used for app development are all English-based. This factor, by itself, could prove to be a barrier to many potential programmers who may have ideas, but lack English skills. Considering that a sizeable population in India belongs to this class, it’s a huge barrier for innovation at a grassroots level, in India.

If we expect apps to have deep penetration into the Indian market, then we cannot ignore the fact that we have to not only make apps understandable to people who do not understand English, but is also made by individuals who know what they need at the grassroots level – in finance, health, e-commerce or government work, etc.

There are quite a few programming languages based on Chinese and Korean languages that have been developed for different applications but surprisingly there are hardly any Indian programming languages for a market as big as ours, which alone surpasses the population of whole Europe by a substantial measure.

Made in India apps need to be available to end users in Indian languages.  In a predominantly native speaking country, it is indeed surprising to find that there are hardly any Indian vernacular apps. Nearly two decades ago, when the internet first came to India, Indian market failed to develop localised language content. And as a result, Internet penetration grew only at a snail’s pace. We are on the verge of repeating the same pattern in the mobile era. But before the golden period of this era starts taking a cyclical turn, it is high time we utilise the current momentum of the digital revolution in India to create apps in all the regional languages, which have a sizeable presence in the market for a deeper penetration in diverse market segments.

This is not a small task by any measure, considering that there are 22 official languages (including English) drawn from 6 different language families. Hindi (estimated 420 million speakers) obviously tops the list, followed by Bengali (83 million), Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

Making apps available in an Indian language, is of course also a function of the programming and coding framework that makes it easy to generate language options and ensures that it works on all devices. Indian apps need to be adapted to the realities of mobile and internet usage in India. The localisation of apps is not just restricted to languages but needs to reflect the realities and constraints of mobile usage in India.

For instance, people have limited and precious storage space on their phone, and therefore apps need to be light. About 5 MB or less is an ideal app size, and it is important to consider that even if the phone capacity expands, people will tend to store more photos or videos in preference over bigger and heavier apps.

Another reality about the Indian market is the slow network speeds, and Apps that are made for India need to work on slow and weak networks. The GSMA Global Mobile Economy Report 2015 observes that only 11% of the Indian population is on 3G. Another report from Ericson Consumer Lab says that 88% of 2G users think 3G is too expensive, and 48% believe that in the real world, there is hardly any difference between 2G and 3G!

And lastly, Indian-made apps need to adapt to the reality that Indians are sensitive about their data usage and frequently switch off their internet on phone, and this mindset has got nothing to do with the socio-economic profile of the user vis-a-vis the cost of data. The ‘offline internet’ is exemplified by the existence of the hugely popular ShareIt that facilitates sharing of files and even apps using a direct connection between phones, without consuming any data. The lesson for the app developers for the Indian market is evident. The apps that are customised for Indian market need to be light and optimised to use less data/no data while working well with slow connections. A tall order, but it’s still possible.

A 100% indigenously created platform for app development, ‘Anant’ can facilitate local language app development and also allow app developers to use their mother tongue as a medium to code mobile apps. Additionally, it can offer a unique interface that is light, fast and delivers an excellent app experience on any phone.


phani-bhushanAbout Phani Bhushan :

Phani Bhushan (an IIT Kharagpur Alumnus); is a seasoned IT professional and the founder of Anant Computing; which helps companies create apps in every Indian language or any phone (Smartphone or non-smart phone), irrespective of the inbuilt OS. His vision behind founding Anant Computing has been the digital inclusion of Indian population in its true sense. He has a committed and dedicated team that firmly believes that real digital inclusion will happen only if every citizen of our country has the power of internet and computing at their fingertips without any language barriers.