At our recent Blume Day, we had a fascinating panel discussion attempting answers to the question of whether global consumer internet winners will emerge out of India? If so, when?
If you scrolled through the list of apps on your phone, it would be really hard to find a truly global Indian consumer app. If you look closely, it is even harder to find a non-US app on your phone. The exceptions to this rule are some chinese apps like Shareit and Tik Tok. In this context we wanted to understand “Will there be a truly global consumer internet company coming out of India?” To answer this question we put together a panel of 4 Blume portfolio founders: Sumit Jain of Opentalk, Tushar Vashisht of Healthifyme, Sachin Kanodia of Rizort and Hemesh Singh of Unacademy moderated by Vir Kashyap of Indeed.
They responded with a unanimous yes. Sachin from Rizort outlined his thought process thus: “A few years ago we were asking the question – Will there be a unicorn from India? Now the question has become how many? Similarly a question was asked – will there be a global b2b company coming out of India? This one has been answered too. So now the question in terms of global internet companies is not ‘will’ but ‘when’”. His view is that theme of the panel should not have been ‘will there be global internet companies coming out of India’ but ‘when will these companies come’, because the external conditions are aligning.
During the discussion the panel arrived at two key factors that impacted global expansion – (1) What need are you satisfying and (2) how do you manage costs when thinking global?
First, the need. All the panelists said that their apps have targeted a nearly universal need. With Opentalk it is the need to talk to someone new outside your contact list. Healthifyme tries to improve general health and nutrition need of an individual. Rizort caters to the complicated process of planning a vacation. Unacademy tries to democratize education – empowering educators to reach students easily anywhere, anytime. You can move to any country and these needs will be exhibited regardless of socio-economic or cultural differences.
These needs resonate across similar segments globally. For e.g., Tushar of HealthifyMe mentioned that we saw an increase in adult urban obesity rates in India from 14% to 29% in one decade. And he saw similar trends in developing countries with similar purchasing power parities. For Hemesh at Unacademy, UPSC is currently their biggest target segment with approximately 500K entrants appearing every year. UPSC – Union Public Service Commission is the entrance exam for Indian Civil Services. Similarly in Brazil they have the ENEM exam which has nearly 8.6 mn students appearing every year for entrance examinations. Different scale of students that need the service but similar needs.
Second, the issue of costs while expanding globally. Tushar of Healthifyme shed some light in terms of how he chose Malaysia as the market to expand after India. He mentions that although development teams could be based out of India he set up a local office in Malaysia to operationalize the network of local trainers and nutritionists. Local nutritionists are key to converting a local market since they have the key insights into local cuisine and therefore the local customer. For this purpose it was essential for him to have an office.
In this context, Sachin of Rizort had an interesting anecdote to share about building the supply-side for Rizort. He told us that when he was trying to get resorts and other partners onboarded in Bali, their Linkedin profiles and visiting cards all said that the company was based in Bangalore. These partners would not be ready to engage with Rizort since they saw Rizort as an India-based company. Since Rizort was registered in Silicon Valley, Sachin and his executives changed their location from Bangalore to Silicon Valley on their visiting cards and linkedin profiles. This worked out for them. The partners now began to engage with them for building the supply-side of the platform. This is only an image problem they faced, not a trust or a dependability issue.