It was a hot summer afternoon. My mom picked up the nutmegs from the floor. “What’s the red stuff, shall I throw it?”, I asked. She said, “No, we sell that by the kilo too!”. In the small town of Pala in Kerala, people like my mother sell nutmegs for a Rupee each, the red layer between the nut and the shell is sold separately too. Little does she know that they are actually sold at five times that everywhere else. So what is stopping small town farmers from cashing in on this information? Is it the lack of information? My mom is on facebook, reads the news and even is comfortable with an iPad. She has a bachelor’s degree in science and has been a school teacher for nearly two decades.
My previous firm’s partner and I got off the plane. We had flown into Pune for the day to meet a client. As we had a few hours to kill before the meeting, we decided to head to the office to brush up on a few things before the meeting. Unfortunately, neither of us had no idea where the office was. I quickly googled the off address and we were on our way. Such things are mundane to us, but he was a little taken aback with my ingenuity. So what is it that is so different in this case? How is he any different from my mom?
In the words of Sherlock Holmes, “If you’ve eliminated all other possibilities, whatever remains no matter how improbable, must be the truth”. The problem is not the education or a rural and urban divide. The reality is that the last generation is yet to get on the tech savvy bandwagon, the adoption rate is still far below expectation.
Today, India has a healthy 1.1 billion people, 74% of whom are in the rural areas. The Nielsen Global Smartphone Insights report of 2013 shows that 81% of India’s population use a mobile phone. A huge 32% of the population access the data only via mobile and are expecting a 58% growth in rural internet users.
A Goldman Sachs study estimates India’s population to touch 1.6 billion by 2040 with the median age expected to be around 35. Generation Z, the kids today who live in a digital world today would be at their peak. Even at the current adoption rates are considered, the numbers expected are staggering to say the least.
KPMG’s 2014 cloud survey shows a full 54% increase in employee productivity today, in the same world where generation Z is yet to leave its mark.
Now let us look a little deeper on how things are today. Deloitte’s survey shows a massive 49% increase in better decision making because of analytics. This is the same world where my mom doesn’t know the value of nutmeg. By 2040, when I’m doing the same thing, I would highly doubt that things are still running in the same manner.
Now let us look at the current situation from the standpoint of a consumer. Idea cellular had come with an ad about a mobility payment solution a few years ago, while they haven’t fully adopted it, giants such as Uber have already integrated credit card payment methods. With payment methods such Airtel Money, PayU, Mobikwik, Paytm and others set to boom, we can expect a massive change in the payment landscape. But what will the consumer pay for? With the rise in thefts, my mother has decided to install security cameras. She first browses Flipkart to understand the price range, even though Flipkart doesn’t deliver to Pala! The microeconomic theory of information asymmetry is slowly becoming non existent, something which even the rural population of 2040 would be fully be aware of.
A few months after Flipkart announced its plan to go completely mobile, it decided to push the move for later. KPMG’s technology innovation survey of 2014 said that mobility solutions were voted only 9% of the next indispensable consumer technology. With the advent of cloud, 3D printing, internet of things, data analytics and artificial intelligence among other things represent a world of endless possibilities. The rural population of 2040 will no longer have a rural mindset.
Disruptive technologies go a long way, but when you look at the bigger picture, you would also recognize that it is only a footstep in the wider scheme of things. This year, the government announced the launch of a 100 new smart cities. By 2040, in all probability the rural population would end up a minority, India would be one big city where trains travel at 250 kmph. Doesn’t seem impossible considering that my wife’s tailor uses an iPad to show the hundreds of patterns, the only problem of course is that I as the husband have to wait till she finishes seeing them all!