Highlights

  • Exciting time to build digital businesses: Ananth Narayanan
  • Even China hasn't seen the kind of internet access growth India has: Ajit Mohan
  • People forced to sample a more digital way of living: Ajit Mohan

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In the last 6 years, even China hasn't seen the kind of internet access growth India has: Ajit Mohan

Ajit Mohan and Ananth Narayanan discuss the dramatic change in the size and scale of the Indian digital audience seen in the last 6 years. They also spoke about how it’s a very exciting time to be building digital businesses, at the Ascent Conclave 2022.

The size and scale of the Indian digital audience, both video and digital consumers have seen a dramatic change in the last 6 years. 'You circle back about six years in 2016, there were only about 50 million people who had access to good quality internet in India that number today is well north of 800 million, and all of that has happened in the last six years,' Ajit Mohan, former Meta India head said at the Ascent Conclave 2022.

Ajit Mohan and Ananth Narayanan, founder, Mensa Brands, discussed 'Super Charging A Digital Future' in a fireside chat at the Ascent Conclave 2022 held in Mumbai on 24 November. They spoke about the changing landscape of India's digital audience and businesses. They also spoke about scaling and building digital businesses in India. They also advised the entrepreneurs and interpreneurs on starting digital businesses and how to deploy the available capital smartly, to enable consistent growth.

Speaking on the expansion of internet access in the country, Ajit Mohan said, a lot of countries have not seen the pace of this transformation that India has seen. Not even China has seen this kind of dramatic expansion in access to the internet. In the last six years, you also have two years, where people were in many ways forced to sample a more digital way of living.

He further added, 'If you really think about it in terms of an economy where different versions of the lockdown happened, it was in many ways a forced introduction to a more digital way of living, and therefore the India that's emerged out of the pandemic, India in 2022, and looking at the next decade, looks dramatically different.' Ananth Narayanan agreeing with Mohan added more facts to the conversation, 'if you look at online retail, all of the e-commerce in India today, is sub 10% of the total retail market, 8-9%. In China, that number is north of 20%, and the same is true in the U.S. The reason this is important is that we haven't seen anything yet. I think the next ten years will be sort of the best years for building out businesses digitally... I think Flipkart, Amazon, etc. are large businesses, but not really, not if you consider the size of the market, in terms of revenues or consumers.'

Ajit Mohan went on to explain how he feels that companies and entrepreneurs have not fully imbibed how dramatic this change is. 'They haven't understood the depth of this in terms of how this changed how people behave, how people discover things, how people shop for things because that 50 to 800 million people expansion in access has happened very quickly,' he said.

'If you're really ambitious, you're solving for 100 million people. You're not solving for 800 million people. And, that tells you the scale of the opportunity that is there, in any business that you're in. If you really think about what's happened and start thinking about what it means to be in a country where 800 million people have access to good quality internet, and in many ways over the last couple of years have already been introduced to a more digital way of living. And, then project this over the next ten years, imagine all of the different ways in which change will happen to how we conduct commerce, how we choose health providers, and how we get educated. We are really at the beginning of that journey, but that foundation is already in place,' he added.

Ananth Narayanan also shared his experience when he started Myntra in 2015. He said that from the first time a consumer came online to the point where they actually bought an article of fashion, the period was 18 months. And, today since consumers are more comfortable with online purchases that number has come down to six months. 'So now every new customer, every hundred million that you add to the Internet, starts doing business online, much much quicker and that transforms that ability to accelerate,' he said.

Adding to the changing digital landscape of India, Narayanan spoke about the other things where he's seen a shift including physical infrastructure. He spoke about how difficult it used to be to reach 26,000 pincodes in India earlier due to poor infrastructure. 'Now with the logistics and supply chain infrastructure that Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Nykaa have all built, you know, for a call it ₹140, you can reach any pincode in India with any product in three days,' he said.

Narayanan added, 'I think in the next ten years, massive businesses would get built on the digital infrastructure that exists, whether that's the consumers, whether that's UPI, or whether that's the physical infrastructure that gets sort of built around it. And, I think in the next ten years we'll see massive digital businesses get built, at a scale that we haven't seen yet. So, I think it's a very exciting time to be building digital businesses in India.'

Also read: India’s digital landscape reflects the country’s complex demographic: Ajit Mohan & Ananth Narayanan

Also read: Ajit Mohan & Ananth Narayanan’s advice for entrepreneurs on building digital businesses

Editorji was the exclusive media partner for this panel discussion at this Ascent Conclave 2022.

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