Public and private innovation are driving India's substantial digital economy

01 April 2019 Consultancy.in

New analysis from global management consultancy McKinsey & Company has reinforced what many experts have been indicating in recent times, that India is amongst the largest digital economies in the world. On a number of metrics, India is second only to China in terms of digital consumption.

The analysis comes against the backdrop of reports from a number of major consulting firms about India’s rapidly digitalising economy. In 2017, the Boston Consulting Group placed India’s population of online users at approximately 400 million, and predicted that it would reach 850 million by 2025.

Since then, experts have focused on what the emergence of such a large digital market means for various sectors, and how they are likely to grow and evolve in this context. McKinsey’s latest study offers a comparative analysis of India’s digital market against other major economies in the world.

India's global digital position

The highlight of the report is the role that the Aadhaar initiative from the Indian government has played in the development of this digital economy. Aadhaar was launched in 2009, and is essentially a digital identity mechanism that has registered as many as 1.2 billion people in accordance with their biometric information. 

The presence of such a digital identity has spelled growth for a number of other sectors that have fed off of this substantial database. The digital banking segment is one example. By the start of last year – nine years after the introduction of Aadhaar, nearly 900 million bank accounts were linked to Aadhaar information.

Not only does this represent monumental growth over less than a decade, but the number also nearly doubled since the previous year, when the number of linked bank accounts stood at just under 400 million. The digital identity database generated under Aadhaar has grown into the largest of its kind in the world.

Global digital adopters

The report attributes the overall digital growth in the country to a number of other government initiatives as well, including the Goods and Services Tax that was established in 2013, and has created a unified and harmonized database for over 10 million firms that pay indirect tax to the government.

Consequences of this expansion in the digital sphere have spread far beyond the sectors most directly affected, and India has become the second largest digital economy in the world behind only China on a number of metrics. These include the number of application downloads as well as the number of wireless phone subscribers.

The latter has been the result of the Reliance Jio initiative, which has tremendously increased the accessibility of mobile data by offering extremely cheap data plans across the urban and rural landscape. The number of internet subscribers has also grown to the second largest in the world as a result, currently at 560 million according to McKinsey.

Falling data prices in India

Increased prosperity has also led to a boom in the number of smartphones being purchased in India, currently at nearly 355 million in India, behind only China. The same global position is applicable when comparing the volume of social media engagement in India. Alongside government initiatives, the report attributes this scenario to innovation in the private sector as well.

“Global and local digital businesses have recognized the opportunity in India and are creating services tailored to its consumers and unique operating conditions. Media companies are making content available in India’s 22 official languages, for example,” says the report.

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