It’s Digital India Week at the moment.
The country’s Department of Telecom’s (Dot) will launch four new initiatives in these 7 days, each of which are designed to promote internet accessibility in India’s remotest areas.
One of the developments, a solar-powered WiFi system, is specifically designed to reach the poorest parts of the country, where the internet is currently inaccessible or too slow to actually use.
To aid their success, Indian companies have invested around $70 billon, with the BBC estimating that 1.8 million jobs will be added to India’s economy as businesses ready themselves for a digital revolution. The scheme’s biggest investor, Mukesh Ambani, who happens to be India’s richest man, alone put $39 billion into the venture. It’s hoped that the investment will bridge the enormous digital divide which currently exists in the country.
Even without Digital India Week, the world’s second most populous nation has been taking to digital, albeit slowly. E-commerce sales stood at $2.3 billion in 2012, in 2014 they were $8.3 billion. Much of this is down to Flipkart, India’s answer to Amazon. Yet despite soaring revenues over the past five years, it still fails to make a profit.
The company’s inability to deal with its own rapid growth has been the main reason for this, with the failure to create a business model that can deal with its growth plans. Even with a funding round which came in at nearly $1 billion, Flipkart only expects to start making a profit in 2017.
Flipkart’s future success will undoubtedly be tied to the developments which come from Digital India Week. The more people online, the more people who will have the capacity to use Flipkart. Amazon clearly sees India as an opportunity too. It recently invested $2 billion into the market and has seen record high growth in sales within its music categories.
India’s e-commerce battle will be just a single cog in the country’s digital future however. Its aim is to attract some of the world’s most established companies and to assure them that its strict taxation laws shouldn’t put them off what will soon be a thriving digital infrastructure. Although the exact number of people offline in India remains unclear, the number is less than 500 million and getting these people online will be hugely beneficial to the economy.
There’s clearly a sense that if they don’t act now, it’ll be too late.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said this whilst at Digital India Week;
“Time demands that we understand this change, and if we don’t understand this change, then we will be left in a corner and the world will move far away and we will be left watching.”
Time is of the essence, but with some of the world’s largest companies being interested, there’s clearly hope.