How important is the Indian market for the likes of Snapchat?
Judging India’s market potential by headline poverty or per capita income numbers can be a costly mistake
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Snapchat has attempted to quell the controversy over an alleged statement of its CEO Evan Spiegel that Snapchat is “only for rich people” and that he didn’t want to “expand into poor countries like India”. The statement kicked up a storm among social media users. Statistics show that it is a sensible strategy.
Headline numbers might show India as a relatively poor country with low per capita income and higher incidence of poverty, compared to not just developed countries but even its peers. India’s poverty ratio is higher than the global average, while its per capita GDP (gross domestic product) is less than the global average.
To infer from these statistics that India does not offer exciting opportunities for business would be completely wrong though. Here’s why.
Notwithstanding its high poverty and lower average incomes, a lot of Indians have done well for themselves in material terms. Given India’s billion-plus population, this number is significantly large in absolute terms. Let us take some examples.
Data from The World Factbook released by the Central Intelligence Agency shows India has the third-highest number of internet users, after China and the US as of 2014. In terms of the share of population using the internet, India still fares poorly. India is the second-biggest country in terms of monthly active Facebook users, according to a statement received by Mint from a Facebook spokesperson. The number of monthly active users for Facebook and WhatsApp stood at 184 million and 200 million, respectively. To be sure, India’s second rank globally could be a result of Facebook being banned in China.
What makes the India story even more interesting is the huge potential for increasing the market. A recent survey-based report on Indian youth (18-34 years) by non-profit research organisation Lokniti at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) shows that even though exposure of youth to social media currently is low, usage of these social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube has seen significant growth over the last two years. As per the survey, only 50% of the young respondents had any exposure to social media in varying degrees. However, while only 6% of the youth had used Facebook daily in 2014, this increased to 25%, or one in every four youths, in 2016. Daily usage of Twitter too was seen to be increasing from 1% to 7% during this time period.
Clearly, anybody who thinks India is not a lucrative market for social media platforms is not in tune with the trend. No wonder, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg jumped in after the Snapchat controversy to declare Facebook’s commitment to serve all types of users, rich and poor .