Four ways how India can leapfrog its digital maturity

07 January 2019 6 min. read
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With the number of internet users in India set to jump to over 800 million by 2021, India’s online landscape has reached a disruptive tipping point. For the growth in uptake to materialise into tangible benefits for government and businesses however, a range of developments needs to be put into play. Rajiv Gupta, Abhik Chatterjee and Amit Bharti, all consultants at Boston Consulting Group in India, reflect on emerging trends that could help India leapfrog from ‘digitally advancing’ to ‘digitally evolved’. 

As India’s digital consumer rises fast-and-furious in 2019, enterprises need to develop new technology-based offerings and adopt business approaches that stand the best chance of pulling ahead of rivals in the future. We look at four trends that will emerge as most critical.

‘Size-does-matter’. With 462 million internet users in India today and looking to reach 821 million by 2021, this truly outlines the massive potential digital holds for India. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analysis – Digital Consumers, Emerging Markets and the $4 Trillion Future – looks at emerging markets closely, and finds countries passing through three typical phases of digital development; Digitally Aware, Digitally Advancing and Digitally Evolved.

India is seen Digitally advancing with the likes of Brazil and Indonesia, while Digitally Evolved mostly has western countries with the exception of China. So, what would make us leapfrog from Digitally advancing to Digitally evolved; and what can consumers and business’s expect in the days to come. In this article, we look at the key driving forces that make a difference.India’s digital growth

Rise of the digital consumer

We have 90 million online shoppers in India today – eight times more than in 2013. Our research identified a highly-evolving consumer engaged in a broader set of online activities – eight categories of behaviour that include, consuming media, pursuing studies, managing finances, and of course shopping. Two factors drive this:

Omni-channel grows, but offline still dominant: We see three clear pathways – mostly offline, substantially mixed and largely online and whilst digital penetration increases offline will stay dominant. Our analysis indicates that 78% of purchases are done offline, accounting for 58% of value, against 16% purchases that followed a pure online pathway from beginning to end; balance 5% has mixed pathways. B2C retailers will increasingly focus on nuanced understanding of customer journeys, strengthen specific channels that are designed to deliver different needs in different situations. E.g. 43% of India’s new-car buyers select the model through online search, and close the transaction at the dealership. This is forcing automotive players to look beyond channels to holistically re-examine the roles of their dealership channels.

Impulse counts, in the new convenience economy: Anytime-anywhere connectivity coupled with surge in e-commerce and online payments, will drive significant impulsive shopping growth, making it a lever to consider. Fashion will be the top gainer along with segments such as packaged food, fast moving consumer goods, etc. driven by special offers will drive nearly 30% to 40% of overall purchases.

AI to go hyperlearning – with data imperative in tow

While automation-to-AI has been the talk of the town, a large part of the rule-based automation hype is expected to mellow down. 2019 will see a significant shift towards hyper-learning, as companies train their AI guns on areas with highest value potential. Let us take operations, where Siemens is deploying AI-at-scale to create “digital twins” as “virtual products” in “virtual factories” to improve yields and quality at shop floor. Data still will be the main mountain to move, with increased focus on “data-fix at source” moves to address structural data engineering and governance issues. 

Countries Pass Through Three Distinct Stages of Digital Development

Cybersecurity gains centrestage, as IoT and devices proliferate

If you’re like most executives, you already know cybersecurity is a major threat. We estimate 40-50 billion connected devices by 2020, and even the most innocuous connected device once inflicted with malware can cripple infrastructure, networks, and put lives in jeopardy, especially in industrial settings. To add to this, increased adoption of blockchain ecosystems means a greater territory to defend for our organisations.

So, why are most firms still struggling with cybersecurity? A BCG study of 50 recent major data breaches found that only 28% were caused by inadequate security tech. In the vast majority of cases; 72% of the breaches were a result of organizational failure, process failure, or employee negligence. Looking ahead, we recommend enterprises to assess their existing defence, devise a robust cybersecurity strategy and drive resilience measures through frameworks, technologies and rapid response teams. 

Brace up for the 5G age

5G is touted as our carrier for a digitally evolved India. Much beyond increasing download speed on your mobile, it will take machine-to-machine communication network to a whole new plane. This will unleash the true potential of IoT through smart tracking, smart manufacturing, health monitoring, telemedicine, location and navigation based consumer services and our Smart Cities vision. We recommend a ‘5G Playbook’ for regulators, governments, telcos and telco ecosystem on profitable deployment of 5G, addressing a wide array of key topics from scenario evaluations, policy formulation, standards, spectrum allocations and ecosystem setup to avoid high risk of delay and fragmentation.

In closing, the journey to deliver value in this evolving digital landscape will not be easy. Businesses will increasingly place their bets on the ‘four commandments’ to drive true differentiation and impact, coupled with relentless focus on speed, scale, conviction and commitment to win.

Related: India's digital lending volume could be $1 trillion over the next five years.