In a rapidly shrinking world, today's businesses must look outside America's shores to continue to grow in a hypercompetitive marketplace. Fortunately, with the advent of new online marketing technology and a downward spiral US dollar, expanding internationally is significantly easier than at any time in the recent past. One market which has the potential for rapid growth, and a market in which exists an awesome opportunity for businesses from the United States, is India.
At a population of 1.14 billion (and growing), India is second only to China as the world's largest country and within this 1.14 billion, 325 million Indians have disposable income, estimates the US Department of State. According to Diana Farrell, the director of the McKinsey Global Institute, an estimated 50 million of this middle class earn between $ 23,000 and $ 118,000, adjusted for local cost of living differences – roughly the entire population of the UK.
Best Industry Segments
Apart from consumer goods, data from the Government of India's Department of Commerce shows that as of the end of May 2008, India's top imports are in the sectors of mineral fuels, precious and semi-precious jewelry, nuclear reactors and machinery, electrical machinery & equipment, iron / steel, and optical & medical / surgical equipment. With the rupee gaining ground against the dollar over the past two years, imports have become cheaper for both Indian consumers and businesses, and the trend seems to be of a strengthening rupee vis-à-vis the dollar.
Regulatory and Tariff Landscape
Import tariffs in India generally range from 0-10%, depending on the type of goods. Apart from tariffs and duties, the government also levies some non-tariff measures (NTMs), although by and large the trend is towards a freer market. The Economist's Intelligence Unit reports that in the 2007/08 budget, the government reduced the maximum duty from 12.5% to 10% (even as late as 1991, some goods were levied duties of as high as 300% of value).
Online Marketing Opportunities
India boasts an internet population of 60 million, which, despite being the third largest market in Asia, represents only 5.3% penetration into the market and a 1,100% growth over the past seven years. 70% of these 60 million are active users of the internet and, if current trends continue, the number of active users in 2010 could be as high as 94 million, an analysis of data from the Internet and Mobile Association of India shows. This creates a large and growing opportunity for exporters to conduct e-commerce or e-marketing campaigns targeting India.
Online Language Preferences
According to reports by eStatsIndia, English as a first language is showing a declination trend while JuxtConsult, in its India Online report 2007 stated that 42% of surveyed Indian internet users said they preferred to read content in their local language. For most Indians, the local language is Hindi – more than half of all Indians speak or understand the language, or its dialects, natively. For an organization's webpage to reach the maximum number of users, it is recommended that it has at least one page submitted to a search engine that is in a local language. The indexed page will be found by users who prefer to search in their local language, and they will most likely continue on to the English-language website.
Search Engine Profile
Google India (Google.in) retains the top spot in search engine usage, and is actually used more often than Google.com. Apart from search industry leaders Yahoo! and Google, an organization wishing to effectively market online in India would do well to optimize its pages for various popular Indian search engines such as khoj.com or rediff.com, increasing the number of people who find its website.
Summary If this sounds like a lot of work, the payoff is equally impressive. As mentioned earlier, the Indian middle class, already the size of Italy, France, the UK or Korea and growing fast, hungry for foreign-made products and services, and is willing to shop online for them. Consequently, B2C e-commerce in India is predicted to reach $ 2.16 billion by the end of 2008, according to emarketer.com, and more than double in three years at $ 5.6 billion in 2011, spurred mostly by the 25 million (and growing) credit card customers in the country.
India, then, is a country abounding with opportunity. Growing at breakneck pace, it is a potentially lucrative for any company looking to expand globally, and an excellent market to begin building online marketing campaigns to gain a strategic "early entrant" advantage over the competition. Based on the current and future potential of the market Princeton Consulting International ranks India as a Tier I market for global online expansion.