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Lack of Startups building Platform for Bharat with “Come for tools and stay for Network mindset”

Hi everyone,

Recently, I attended a meetup in Patna. And one of the participants suggested to another participant: “Hey you should read this book: How to win friends and influence family”. Another person's instant response: Is it available on KukuFM? And the response was in less than a second (WoW). How do you build something that can have the first impression on your mind when you are looking to make progress? Products with massive pull from Bharat users are not easy to find, and KukuFM is one of the rare examples. And this incident got me thinking about the platform from the tool's POV. After all, KukuFM is a tool for that person because he was looking to make progress by listening to the above book - because he can’t read.

Let’s get started:

I think the discussion around building for Bharat has been in the ecosystem for the past half-decade. But even after so long there are questions around monetisation and market saturation. Frankly, I find this shocking because I have been on the ground for the past ten months - in Patna. I look around and find the need for tools that can help these consumers make progress on an everyday basis. After all, facing market saturation in just a few years of operation for any product and services in a county with billion people means products and services are optimized for a limited number of users. And startups are forced-scaling the same “One size fits all” product and solutions to the rest of the consumers.

There is no doubt that India is the farmlands of DAU/MAU. And that is, perhaps, not a bad thing - after all, if you have farmlands the high probability, you are gonna get fruits (LOL). :) I think we are still not building the right solutions that can help these DAU/MAU to make progress on the regular basis.

Let’s face it, India is a trust deficit country, and till that time farmlands' DAU/MAU are not making progress with your product and services on daily basis. It is probably difficult to win these customers and create a trust surplus. This means rather than thinking in terms of Dropbox for Bharat, or Slack for Bharat - it would be better if we build tools that can make progress, and create a trust surplus. I think this approach might be better suitable for a country like India.

Here are some of Patna's ground insights - B2B and B2C - that might help many of you take better decisions as a PM, Startup Founder, Investors etc.

  • I am in Patna for the past 10 months, and I have been cashless almost 99% of the time for the last 5 months - it was not the case for the initial 5 months.

  • The staff of a very small Cafe “CafeHideout” (You can find me on the weekends here reading or writing) are using the Staff Management app - KNOW- for Check-in/Check-out, salary processing, PF etc.

  • The digital payments QR codes are getting circulated for Puja Chanda and Aarti amounts (You already know this)

  • Do you know most of the recent movie stars have visited Patna to promote their movies because the collections are coming from cities like Patna, Hajipur, Gaya etc?

  • I see people of age 40+ lined up to a health test canopy inside a Park.

  • Roadside vendors' vegetables are getting out of stock if I am not reaching them on time.

  • I see 100 folks lined up at fast-food stalls.

Frankly, I can go on and on. The bottom line is the so-called Bharat is spending money, fully aware that digital adoption is/can make progress in daily lives, but they always expect to make that progress at the lowest cost. And their decision to pay for any product or service (Digital and Offline) depends on the progress, price point, and trust. Therefore, I think the future of Vernacular content is bright, provided the companies spend resources on identifying brands/products/companies that are making genuine progress in the lives of Bharat users at the right price points.

The fact is, thanks to FB and Google, it is easier to acquire Bharat users but not easy to retain and monetize. And retention and monetisation have nothing to do with Purchasing Power. The platforms are struggling to monetize because they have no idea what types of progress these users are looking to make on the daily basis and how they decide to open their wallets.

Look, the fact is our aspiration of making India the world economic leader depends on building products and solutions for the non-economic contribution population - 120 Cr. A massive number is in front of us, and when we say building for Bharat - it has to be focused on three key points.

  1. Whether that products or services are making progress to the consumers on day to day basis

  2. Is the product creating a trust surplus?

  3. The deflation in price points: thanks to the “Economics of Scale” and Digital Adoption.

We all love platform business because after the initial Atomic Netowork formation - the network effects kick in. In general Network effects functions as a moat. It is perhaps easy to copy a business model but copying a network is almost impossible.

One of the aspects of platform building that have been missing in the startup ecosystem is - “Come for tools and stay for network”. I see, around me, these DAU/MAU farmlands are looking to make some sort of progress on the daily basis. This means tools that can help these users make progress will be a natural pull from the user's side. And eventually adding the network layer, that can a. bring viral factor and b. Surge retention, will have a long-term moat.

The fact is Instagram, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Dropbox, Open Table, Yelp etc all started as a tool and over-time added network layers to the product and services.

In India Cred is a good example, initial users started using the platform as a tool to pay Credit Card bills. But now irrespective of many platforms offering Credit Card payment solutions - user love Cred because of its network: but this is for mature internet users.

Now the need for tools would vary for Bharat consumers. It can’t be the same or if it is the same the users would prefer to use the global product and services rather local ones.

There is something called “Dropbox for Bharat" - seems to be a massive opportunity. But if we dig deeper, we would realise the success of Dropbox was largely because of its network effect, and it was a Desktop innovation. I remember bringing around 10+ new Dropbox users. But that was obviously for my work. I would have never paid if it was not for my work or mobile-only usage.

I wonder if Dropbox for Bharat, where most of the users are accessing the internet through mobile phones, helps make any progress on day to day basis for these users?

There are not many methods to know what progress these users are looking to make except going on the ground and spending time with these users. And therefore, KukuFM was a surprise for me.

Animall is a good example of “Come for tools and stay for Network”. And I see a need for so many tools that can make progress on the day to day basis. The advantage of starting with tools is that you don’t have to worry about “Chicken and Egg” or Cold start problems.

We all can agree: The prosperity of a nation is a by-product of the conversion of non-economic consumers into economic consumers. And out of 135 Cr India’s population, 80% populations are non-economic consumers - a massive opportunity. But I think we have to think from a progress and tool POV.

Do you know any platform built on the thesis of “Come for tools and stay for Network” that is not competing with global counterparts? If you know do share - I would love to understand more.

Published on 09-10-2022 at 23:15 PM


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