Coca-Cola recently announced that it is jumping into the red-hot Indian online retail arena by selling directly to consumers and small businesses, a first for a FMCG (CPG) company in India. While the Indian online retail story is still being written and Forrester is bullish about the long-term prospects for this channel, the immediate challenges need to be managed effectively.
Logistics and fulfillment are the largest challenges of them all in India, with more than half of all online retail sales being done using cash on delivery (COD). While COD is essential in a nascent eCommerce market, it can have a large negative impact on business margins. This is exacerbated in a nascent market where consumers are testing this new medium of ordering goods, as the return rates can be quite high. In India, reportedly, the return rates can vary from 5% to more than 25%, depending on the category, the demographics of the online buyers, and their online tenure (experience with the Internet).
The continued economic viability of software development in India, whether by independent software vendors (ISVs) or “captive” business units, depends less on pure labor arbitrage and more on delivering time-to-market advantage for clients. The pressure of meeting business expectations demands that software firms harness creative capability wherever they can find it. The increased focus on Business Technology innovation and customer experience over mere cost savings presents both a threat and an opportunity to software configuration and development business units (BUs) in India.This is the key finding from my just-published report.
Forrester developed its software innovation assessment workbook to assess software innovation capability of firms. We provided this tool to members of NASSCOM (the industry association for the IT BPO sector in India), comprising both ISVs and captive development BUs in India, and surveyed them to assess the most important process, organizational, cultural, geographical, and staffing practices that promote software innovation. We also interviewed a dozen selected respondents in greater depth to better understand how innovation capability contributes to business success in India. We found evidence of widespread adoption of the practices correlated with software innovation capability, helping to drive a rapidly changing role for Indian business in the global software supply chain.
Innovators in India that were engaged in software development and configuration received high scores for many of the practices that drive effective innovation. They demonstrated strength in:
Listening to the voice of the customer
Making the development process more iterative and responsive
On February 22, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), an institution that supervises and regulates India’s financial sector, announced guidelines allowing corporations to enter the banking sector. Private companies, public-sector groups, and nonbanking financial firms will all be eligible to apply for a banking license. We expect RBI to start issuing new bank licenses by early 2014.
RBI guidelines state that companies receiving a banking license must open at least 25% of their branches in rural areas. Despite this guideline, I believe that new entrants will primarily target the same urban and semi-urban customers that existing banks target. The reason is simple: These are the most profitable customers. This helps explain why 85% of rural bank branches in India belong to public banks; it’s simply not an attractive market for private banks.
What it means for current Indian banking CIOs: Leverage big data to grow your business or prepare to be left behind.
As competition increases, businesses will expect new IT capabilities to understand and respond to customer needs better, faster, and cheaper. Banking CIOs who embrace this change will adopt big data technologies and become true business partners. The ones who don’t will be bypassed by new entrants (when they come to play) using big data approaches and internal data from whatever market they’re currently in to analyze the banking market. These new entrants will likely influence customer preferences, question existing assumptions, and look for ways to disrupt the market. I recommend that current Indian banking CIOs:
On March 4, 2013, NASSCOM, the industry association for the IT BPO sector in India, announced a restructuring plan to help realize its goal of India becoming a $300 billion industry by 2020. The restructuring plan is based on an independent committee’s recommendations, chaired by Infosys cofounder N.R. Narayana Murthy. Key highlights from the announcement:
Realignment of the NASSCOM structure into seven verticals (IT services, business process management, global in-house centers, engineering and R&D services, Internet and mobile, products, and domestic market) and five enablers (global trade, policy advocacy, outreach, skills and talent, and regional connect).
Executive Council to be reconstituted to have adequate representation from the seven identified verticals
Formation of various councils, including national vertical councils, country councils in key markets, and strengthened regional councils to address local issues.
Set up five centers of excellence in five years for software engineering, emerging technologies, vertical solutions, eCommerce, service excellence, and governance.
Facilitate 100,000 certifications in specialist skills and domain areas.
On February 28, 2013, India (as part of its 2013-2014 budget) announced that it would increase the excise duty on mobile phones costing more than $36 to 6%, up from the current level of 1%. Forrester believes that this increase will not affect the mobile industry in India very much because:
Sub-$100 smartphones will trigger new kinds of competition in the market. As high-end mobile phones get more expensive, Forrester predicts that smartphones costing less than $100 will be in much greater demand. Moreover, handset manufacturers will absorb a large portion of the price increase to sustain their sales.
Explosive mobile Internet growth. With increasing urbanization and improving per capita income, more people will begin to use the Internet, and the use of smartphones will rise quickly. We forecast that the mobile Internet user base in India will grow by more than 30% year-on-year over the next five years.
Addicted social media youngsters. With more than 61 million Facebook users, India ranks as Facebook’s third-largest audience in the world after the US and Brazil. Half of these users are between 18 and 24 years of age, and the majority of them use their mobile phones to connect to the world.
Rapid eCommerce growth complementing the mobile sector. Forrester estimates that eCommerce revenues in India will increase more than fivefold by 2016, jumping from US$1.6 billion in 2012 to US$8.8 billion in 2016. Mobile-friendly sites from various players and eCommerce website aggregators will help accelerate mobile Internet adoption.
Across Asia Pacific (AP), expanding mobility support for employees, customers, and/or business partners will be the top strategic telecom priority for enterprises in 2013, surpassing other telecom priorities like performing network management and consolidating operations equipment, rationalizing/consolidating telecom/communications service providers, and moving communications applications to the cloud.
While enterprises will invest in a range of mobility products and services, there are five key areas in particular which will attract the most investment in 2013. Vendors need to focus on the solutions and engagement models that meet customers’ needs in these five areas and target the industries and countries where the demand will be greatest:
Business consulting services. Specifically for defining a formal enterprise mobility and/or BYOD program strategy, including devices, applications, data access, and provisioning. Moreover, AP organizations will likely need help in drafting compliance and legal policies related to enterprise mobility.
Telecom expense management solutions. This is one of the most critical telecom requirements for AP CIOs in 2013. Across the region, 50% to 60% of organizations pay the entire cost of voice and data services for company-supported Android and iOS phones and tablets. For BlackBerry phones, this proportion is nearly 70%.
Data from Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Tracker Survey, Q4 2012 highlights that a total of 53% of IT organizations interviewed in India plan to increase their software spending on mobile applications in 2013. Among all the countries, India ranks second only after Australia/New Zealand and considerably higher than the regional average:
It’s encouraging to see Indian CIOs start to give a high priority to mobility software spending, but our research shows that the majority of mobile application initiatives are skewed toward employees and BYOT (and, to some extent, partners) with little focus on mobile customer engagement. Forrester research findings indicate that mobile applications will be a more critical channel to reach consumer markets in Asia Pacific in the future compared to more developed western markets. This is especially true in India, where the population is younger (according to the UN, 27% of the population is between the ages of 15 and 29), the mobile Internet user base is growing at the rate of more than 30% annually, and sub-$100 smartphones are further fueling mobile Internet growth.
What It Means For CIOs:
Put customers at the center of your mobile strategy. If you’re not establishing the architectures and capabilities to reach these mobile customers now, you won’t be positioned for success three years from now. CIOs have an opportunity to lead their organizations by leveraging technology in strengthening customer relationships.
Data from the Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Tracker Survey, Q4 2012 highlights the increasing gap between CIOs and business decision-makers (BDMs) in India — a gap that originates in misaligned perspectives. The rapid rise of social media, cloud computing, and mobility in India has started to significantly affect how organizations do business in the country. Business leaders’ use of consumer technology has changed their expectations of how enterprise IT should be harnessed. They increasingly seek to use technology in innovative ways in order to gain a competitive edge and drive business growth. However, most CIOs are still caught in the old world of focusing exclusively on IT budgets and project delivery performance issues:
I recently spoke with a few CIOs in India to explore their views on the reasons behind this misalignment. When I shared data from the chart above and asked their opinions on the insights, some interesting findings that came out:
There are many “heads of IT” and few “business technology (BT) CIOs” in India. One CIO from a large auto manufacturing firm mentioned that a majority of CIOs in India are actually “IT heads” who think and act mainly from an IT perspective. Even worse, their thinking is generally very hardware-centric. This CIO’s opinion is in sync with my recent report highlighting the fact that Indian CIOs are at risk of losing business credibility (and eventually their jobs) if they do not improve their understanding of BT.
Thirty software product members of NASSCOM, the industry association for the IT BPO sector in India, announced that they would form a group to expand the software ecosystem in India: the Indian Software Product Industry Round Table, or iSPIRT. The key driver behind this development appears to be NASSCOM’s limited focus on software product companies in India. iSPIRT plans to:
Convert ideas into policy proposals to take to government stakeholders
Enable product startups to discuss issues through a dedicated platform (productnation.in)
Create awareness for the adoption of software products within the Indian SMB sector
Work with NASSCOM and other industry associations to provide a platform for product start-ups
The Asia Pacific (AP) growth engine did not fire on all cylinders in 2012, leading Forrester to revise its IT purchases growth forecasts for the year. While Australia, South Korea, and several ASEAN tech markets are showing continued solid growth, in other markets like China, India, Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam, political leaders are struggling in the face of growing economic problems. My colleague Andy Bartels and I, with the help of Forrester’s AP analyst team, have recently published our revised IT purchase growth forecasts for 2013. Here are our key expectations by country:
2012’s slowdown in China will be short-lived. Despite a slowdown in 2012, China continues to attract intense vendor interest because of its size and potential for further growth. The expected government stimulus efforts in the country will offset factors such as weak demand from businesses and governments. The slowdown in 2012 (+9%) is therefore likely to be short-lived, with stronger growth resuming in 2013 (+10%).
India’s IT growth will remain slower than expected through 2014. 2012 (+7%) was a relatively lackluster year for the tech market in India. Worse than expected economic growth, combined with political gridlock on economic reforms, kept the tech market from reaching its full potential in 2012. While we expect the public sector to drive India’s IT spending growth, the impact will be limited through 2014 due to the parliamentary elections scheduled for that year.