India is the focus of this year’s Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report put out by the global consultancy firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The findings show that broadband data usage is growing both vertically and horizontally while data usage is spreading like wildfire to new users.
The overall trendline for India shows the number of internet users reaching 355 million, second only to China. But internet penetration is still only 27 per cent of the country.
The curvelines on almost all the parameters are dizzyingly high but the report says data costs continue to be high for a majority of India’s 1.3 billion population.
While most of the numbers are likely to produce euphoria, the report warns of several handicaps that are likely to condition future development. India’s challenges lie in a less than ideal fundraising environment, language limitations, job creation, logistics and gender disparity, the report says. Low per capita income, high poverty levels are likely to temper internet technology growth.
On business basics, the report says India has much ground to cover before it can even be competitive with the likes of China and the US. India is ranked at 130 on ease of doing business compared to 78 for China. Similarly, on ease of starting a business, India fares even worse, 155, compared to China’s 127. On the cost of registering a business, expressed as a percentage of per capita income, India is pathetically placed. It costs 16.5 per cent of per capita income to register a business while in China it is a mere 0.6 per cent, and 1.3 per cent in the US.
Another instance of the need to temper the enthusiasm over the findings of the Meeker report relates to the fact that India is now number one global market for time spent on the Android operating system. The report shows that the number of Google Play downloads in India crossed the US market in 2016, indicating yet again the speed of the smartphone-based internet growth in India. However, Meeker’s data excludes China, which does not have the Google Play Store.
Negatives aside, the two big factors that conditioned India’s internet picture in the past year are demonetization and the arrival of Reliance Jio. While the impact of demonetisation is clearly evident in the surge in transactions mediated by Paytm and UPI, Jio’s impact of data usage in 2017 is dramatic. The Mary Meeker report says data usage in India increased by 9 times in the last year with the average price of one GB of data being slashed in half.
Who’s Mary Meeker?
Mary Meeker is a venture capitalist from USA who specializes in the Internet and new digital technologies. She is a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). KPCB brings out an annual report of Internet trends that is an industry standard.
Mary graduated from DePauw University with a BA degree and received an MBA from Cornell University. She serves on many major boards like Airbnb, Soundcloud, and Spotify among others. She also led investments into blue chip firms like Alphabet and Facebook. In 2014, she was listed as the 77th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.