“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are months when decades happen” these prophetic words by the Russian revolutionary and politician Vladimir Lenin are still aptly descriptive of the interesting times that we live in today. While rapid digitization was already changing the way world economies operated, the Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated the process, as most of our basic activities, from buying groceries to celebrating marriages moved online.
In India, these events further accelerated the ‘digital catch-up’ to the extent that this market is now poised to surpass the western, more developed economies in terms of digitization and digital adoption. This has put the country at the center of tech innovation- led by its booming startup ecosystem. The ‘Digital India’ initiative has further boosted digital consciousness and literacy, especially in rural areas. According to a Redseer report, India’s consumer digital economy which was at $85-90 Bn in the calendar year 2020, is expected to grow by 10x in 10 years, a 25% CAGR, to become an $800 Bn market by 2030. This quantum leap can undoubtedly be attributed to the pandemic. It pushed companies to a tipping point in technology and permanently transformed businesses for the better.
As the pandemic unfolded, business processes across industries had to keep up with changing consumer behaviour. Individuals who were already using digital platforms have started to spend more time on them. While those who were digitally averse or uninitiated were forced to hop onto the digital bandwagon, as lockdowns disrupted normal life and habits. For businesses serving these customers, digitization became an imminent need, pushing enterprises, big and small, towards a more digital-centric approach that allowed them to be agile and flexible in the rapidly changing landscape. In India, the enablement of these massive, high-momentum digital migrations, was led by a handful of startup companies. Large enterprises in India Inc. were rapidly turning to startups for help with digital transformation and technological revamping, as they transitioned from traditional practices to a digital-first approach that was better suited for current consumer habits and preferences. To support this rapid digitization, startups in India received an average investment of US$ 100 million every day during 2020 and 2021.
What does this mean for Indian start-ups and where are they headed from here?
Customers have dramatically shifted their loyalty to digital mediums and although some businesses find this new norm challenging, many startups and enterprises have converted this challenge into an opportunity to capture market share and raise industry benchmarks in customer-centricity. McKinsey reports indicate that the pandemic accelerated digital transformation by up to seven years and the trend is expected to grow as businesses seek ways to maintain this momentum.
When it comes to digital offerings, the Asia/Pacific region, which had leapfrogged into the digital era a few decades ago, is now leading the transformation and setting the pace of digitization for the rest of the world to follow. Startups from the region are spearheading global innovations in platform and solution development that:
- Fully automate erstwhile manual, tedious processes and operations like financial reconciliation and customer contact centre operations etc, making automated processes the new norm in today’s digital world
- Bring more intelligence and sophistication to existing digital solutions to improve data collection, processing and analytics that power faster and more informed decision making, leading to more desirable business outcomes. The Advertising and Marketing industries have completely transformed themselves through martech innovations that allow data to help improve sales and customer service.
Along with this, we are also seeing real ‘breakthrough’ technologies being built on sheer outrageous imagination and ideas, across all markets. These include technologies to the likes of wireless electricity, bionic humans, emotional AI, holograms, among others. These fresh innovations are being fuelled by the growing confidence levels of the VCs that are backing them with fresh businesses leading.
Data-driven Analytics- Utilizing the right technology and tools to drive insight-driven outcomes
The basis of any digital transformation is data, and it can drive key decisions when AI (self-serving machine intelligence) is integrated into business models. Most companies have already accumulated a large amount of data over the last 5 to 7 years when the digital transformation began to gain widespread recognition as a game-changer across industries. Thanks to the pandemic-driven acceleration, greater volumes of data are expected to become available going forward, as enterprises make further investments in new technologies that help them gather, analyse and leverage this data to their advantage. For startups and large enterprises likewise, data proliferation is constantly driving the ideas behind tech enhancements and innovations.
With Customer Experience- change is the only constant
The digital transformation has altered the way in which brands interact with their customers. The game has significantly shifted wherein brands are no longer trying to bring customers to their platforms, but are instead bringing their platforms to where their customers are. Live chat and chatbots among other things have raised customer expectations from personalization and digital experiences and the data that brands could not previously collect via face-to-face interactions is now readily accessible via online interactions with customers, allowing brands to constantly scale and revamp their digital offerings to meet growing customer needs. Digitally savvy customers are never bound by one mode of communication and combining all the mediums in one profile can enhance how customers interact with a brand – enabling entrepreneurs to offer a customised and immersive experience.
A boom in startup funding
Many startups emerged during the technological revolution, disrupting the market. This led to a significant change in the status quo, establishing new business practices. While some startups grew into profitable companies, others went public. Pandemic-driven digital adoption was a boon to digitally-enabled companies. A lot of investors and marketers are looking for smart promoters that have digital-driven business models and are willing to look far into the future for real and substantial gains. While venture capitalists invest in digital companies, IPOs have also opened up exit opportunities to investors in today’s fast-paced world. Zomato’s and Nykaa’s recent successful listings are wonderful examples of technology companies becoming first choices for investors.