The iPad quietly sneaked into India last Friday without inviting as much as a second look.
For those of us who believe in icon worship, they don’t come bigger than Apple. A muted entry into the world’s second fastest growing economy belies the game changing nature of this product. Industries as vast and diverse as entertainment, media, gaming, business solutions are waiting to see the long term effect of iPad per se and tablets in general with bated breath. In under 10 months, Apple has sold close to 15 million of these and the recent entrant Samsung claims to have sold close to 2 million Galaxy Tabs.
At the recent Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, more than 70 ‘coming soon’ tablet designs were on display. A lot of these products will compete on price points, thus driving tablet usage and media consumption on them and eventually compete with television and other media for the consumer mind space. The frantic dash amongst world’s leading media companies to make themselves tablet ready is an indicator of the seriousness with which media owners see consumer trends shifting. The likes of New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, and CNN have all made iPad compatibility a showpiece of their communication, creating an ecosystem in sync with the hardware that will drive consumer tastes. A story which has many similarities in the Indian telecom space.
A report by Juxtconsult last year estimated mobile Internet users in India to be around 11 million, almost double over the previous year. Compared to PC penetration, which was at around 51 million, mobile Internet usage has grown faster primarily on the back of a major push by handset manufacturers and service providers towards getting users hooked on to social media tools through their smart mobile phones. Availability of Internet compatible mobile brands like Maxx, Lava, Micromax in the mid to lower end of price range has driven usage.
Tablets combine the best features of PCs and mobiles and with 3G becoming a reality, they could surpass PC sales in the not too distant future.
Some of us might argue about the minuscule size of market in India. A population which has less than 5 per cent PC penetration holds both tremendous potential and challenge. India is a market of the young. 50 per cent of the country’s population is below 25 years of age and 65 per cent is below 35 years. Today’s 20-year old youngster is THE TG for many brands and also a potential consumer of big brands tomorrow. Youth, irrespective of their background, seek mobility and have an ingrained awareness and urge to be tech savvy.
The cool thing for today’s youth includes being connected on the go. The missing links in that connectivity puzzle include the features these tablets seek to plug. Consuming content while on the move, better experience, entertainment and gaming are some of the key elements that define tablets.
Increasingly, research indicates people are exposed to multiple media at the same time. Being busy on your Facebook phone app while watching TV is as ubiquitous as listening to radio while reading a book or newspaper was 20 years back. With tablets now offering a new, larger and above all easier to use portable screen, more and more users will spend time on a device that didn’t exist till recently.
Shifting of consumer trends has tremendous implications for marketers and media companies. For one, more devices means more fragmentation, hence harder to tap audience. For media companies, content being consumed through different devices means investment in creating device specific content and creating new distribution channels.
In the challenge lies opportunity for media companies and brands alike.
India is a unique market in a lot of ways; not the least being a distorted TV market where distribution muscle and paying capability sometimes determines success over content quality. Similarly, print business is saddled with decreasing cover price realisation. For both TV and print industries, tablets offer hope of creating newer channels of revenues.
Mobile advertising that has hitherto been an enigma to advertisers primarily due to the small screen of phone screens can now come of age owing to the larger screen size of tablets. Already, companies like BBC, New York Times, Washington Post are selling advertising on their iPad apps, thereby adding to their revenue kitty with the same content. Though minuscule at present, this revenue can become sizable in the future, depending on how fast tablet usage grows. Most apps available will go pay sometime in the future, creating a new stream of revenues for content producers. Washington Post has already announced a cut-off date for the free availability of its content for iPads.
Similarly, TV companies that have struggled to maximise revenues owing to lack of distribution muscle can directly reach consumers in a never before way.
Imagine IPL available Live on your tablet to be watched on the go. The same content aired on a new portable platform earning extra revenue either through subscription or advertising sales. In the US, services like hulu.com have already tapped into a market saddled with decreasing cable TV subscription revenues, thereby creating free to air content for the connected user and by generating revenues through selling advertising.
Tablets offer a unique opportunity for Indian media companies to get their businesses back in shape.
For advertisers who are increasingly complaining of a fragmenting market and tough to reach consumers, tablets will offer a new opportunity of creating targetted messages for a well defined TG. The Holy Grail of advertising.
Rupert Murdoch, by announcing an iPad paper, has already shown the way he believes the media business of the future will look like.
Even Indian companies like NDTV, which has the most complete iPad app, seem to have sensed the shift.
(Please send your feedback to Nawal Ahuja at firstname.lastname@example.org.)