Internet-driven companies are no longer just disrupting industries. They have become indispensable to our lives today, taking up much of our waking time and, in the process, generating vast troves of data about our tastes and preferences. Little wonder then that firms such as Amazon and Uber are among the planet’s wealthiest today, mining such data to offer us what we want.
As these companies seek to consolidate their dominance and extend their empires, India, with its growing internet penetration, is increasingly becoming an important market. For the American tech giants, conquering the Indian market will not only require overcoming India’s home-grown internet-driven start-ups, but will also mean taking on the might of Chinese tech firms that have invested in many of these startups.
The outcomes of five internet battles in particular—Flipkart vs Amazon, Uber vs Ola, Amazon Prime vs Netflix, UberEats vs Zomato vs Swiggy and Grofers vs BigBasket—could have important implications for the tech industry and the Indian consumer. Analyzing these battles is challenging given the industry’s nascency and the lack of publicly available data. But one powerful internet-based tool can help. Google Trends, which captures search interest in topics, is increasingly used to capture consumer interest in products and brands. Using this, we examine what search interest says about the future of internet companies in India.
Flipkart vs Amazon
Amazon is the global leader in online retail and is hoping to cement its supremacy by capturing the Indian market. However, Flipkart, recently acquired by Amazon’s American rival Walmart, is a major roadblock. Amazon entered India in 2013, six years after Flipkart started operations, but is catching up in terms of sales.
Amazon’s ascendance in India is confirmed in Google Trends, wherein search interest in Amazon has surpassed Flipkart’s over the last two years. Amazon’s greater search interest comes from across India. In the Amazon vs Flipkart battle for India’s e-retail space, Google, at least, is suggesting a victory for Amazon.
Grofers vs Big Basket
Beyond e-retail, Amazon is also looking to break into the online grocery delivery market, the battleground for two home-grown firms: BigBasket, backed by Chinese online giant Alibaba, and Grofers.
Amazon’s entry nearly brought the two rivals together, but the merger talks fell through. There is little clarity who the current leader is both in terms of market share and search interest.Over the last few months, search interest in both firms has been largely similar but with a significant regional divide. Grofers is searched more in northern cities and BigBasket in southern cities.
Uber vs Ola
Another case of home-grown market leader challenged by global player is the ride-sharing industry. Ola, backed by Chinese ride-sharing firm Didi, was the first to launch in India, with Uber only entering the market three years later in 2013. Ola utilized its headstart to capture a significant part of the market, but Uber is catching up, even with a smaller fleet and presence in fewer cities. In 2017, Uber controlled 40% of the India market share, compared to 56 for Ola, according to research firm Kalagato, Quartz reported last year. Search interest in Ola peaked in 2015 but as Uber established its presence, it garnered more interest. In the last few months, Uber has edged ahead in search interest.
Zomato vs Swiggy
Not all battles are international vs local. Several Indian firms have attempted to crack the food delivery space, but only two have survived: Zomato, backed by Alibaba, and Swiggy, backed by Meituan-Dianping. A 2018 report estimated that Swiggy had a slight lead with 35-38% market share, compared to Zomato’s 25-30%. On Google, though, Zomato has been the dominant firm historically, searched more often until the last two years, when Swiggy witnessed an upsurge in interest. One reason could perhaps be Swiggy's discount coupons - with the term 'Swiggy coupons' being the most googled term related to Swiggy in the last five years. There is also a strong regional divide: South India chose Swiggy over Zomato in 2018.
Netflix vs Amazon Prime
Finally, India is also hosting a tough fight between two international content firms: Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Amazon Prime has tried to woo the Indian viewer by producing regional content, especially in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. Unsurprisingly, Amazon Prime is searched more than Netflix in the South. But even with its relatively expensive plans, Netflix generates more searches in the rest of the country.
But, both still have a long way to go to dent the home-grown search giant, Hotstar, which streams television, film and, crucially, cricket content . Hotstar is searched much more than both the international content providers. In this arena, a home-grown, though American-owned, firm seems to be ahead of international entrants.