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October 11, 2010

Why the smartphone money is on India


If you read this blog, you probably own a smartphone or want to own a smartphone. You’re not alone. There are currently nearly 500 million smartphone owners worldwide (with this figure predicted to go up to 1 billion by 2013). According to comScore, a mere 10 percent of these people are in the US, yet when you read most of the technology press, you’d think North Americans were the only ones lucky enough to get their hands on cutting edge devices.

There’s no doubt that the US is an important market, but in the coming years it won’t be the most important. It looks more and more likely that the accolade will go to India, and here’s why.

The next billion geeks

Currently only 81 million Indians or 7% of the population regularly use the internet. But a whopping 507 million own mobile phones. Mobile operators are currently signing up around 20 million new subscribers a month. The trend of there being many more mobile phones than internet connections is why the Boston Consulting Group predicts that the world’s next 1.2 billion internet users will be connecting via their phone. And early next year, when 3G services arrive in India, masses of people previously unconnected will start surfing via the connection in their pocket.

A long history of mobile use

Indians are no strangers to mobiles phones. This year Nokia celebrated its 15th year operating in the country. Although in the first six years, there were only 5 million subscribers, it’s now predicted that by 2013 the number will rise to almost 1 billion. For a company that made its first phone with a Hindi menu in 2000 and has for the last three years been voted India’s most trusted brand, that’s great news. But it’s even better news for Indians who will finally have a chance to make the most of smartphone technology.

Younger and richer

According to a report in the Economist, the growth rate of the Indian economy will overtake China’s in 2013, if not before. Some economists predict that it will grow faster than that of any other large country over the next 25 years. It cites India’s democracy as one reason, the other being demographics. India is blessed with a young and growing workforce. The dependency ratio (the proportion of children and old people to working-age adults) is one of the best in the world and will remain so for a generation. This younger, wealthier generation will be eager to get their hands on the latest smartphone technology. And with a population of 1.2 billion, that’s a lot of hands.