In APAC, Mobile Consumers Are Very Different – From Each Other

IndiaVSChinaAPAC is one seriously loaded acronym.

“There’s a fallacy that exists among many executives in the US that Asia is one block,” said Chetan Kulkarni, CEO of Bangalore-based digital CRM company Vizury. “But it’s actually a complex mix of very different countries that behave in very different ways.”

Take India and China, for example. The population of each is formidable. Based on local census data, China’s population is expected to hit about 1.37 billion by mid-2015, while India is on schedule to clock in at 1.3 billion.

But that’s really where the similarity ends.

“India is about three to four years behind where China is,” said Dippak Khurana, CEO and co-founder of Vserv, a mobile marketing platform focused on emerging markets, including India, Africa and Southeast Asia.

According to Forrester, smartphone penetration in China and India this year is slated to reach 44% and 23%, respectively. But IDC says that India is really the market to watch – the rate of adoption is happening at a greater speed there than anywhere else in APAC.

“There are about 140 million smartphones in India now out of a base of roughly 900 million connected people,” Khurana said. “Most of the smartphone growth in the world is going to be in India in the near term. India is an inflection point.”

In other words, the smartphone potential among the current Internet-connected population of India is more than twice the size of the entire population of the US.

But it’s not just India and China that are worlds apart in terms of consumer behavior.

“Mobile engagement doesn’t vary by client – it varies by market,” Kulkarni said. “Digital media is global. Consumer behavior and data is local.”

AdExchanger asked Vserv’s Khurana to dig a bit deeper into the state of data-driven advertising in emerging markets and to explain what makes Indian consumers tick.

DippakKhuranaVservAdExchanger: What is Vserv’s approach to data collection?

DIPPAK KHURANA: We have insights into about 500 million mobile Internet users across the markets we serve, where, for most users, their first experience of the Internet is through mobile, which is also their primary screen to discover and engage. Those interactions create a lot of data. As those data sets are generated, we aggregate them and build out insights for our clients. We serve ads, about 3 billion on a daily basis, and we gather first-party data.

What about third-party data sources? Programmatic is growing in APAC, overall, but there are still some issues to overcome in terms of affordable data.

In the US, you have DMPs, you have BlueKai. But in emerging markets, there aren’t large third-party sources of data that you can use to get a more complete view.

However, roughly 80% of the Internet population in India is mobile, which is why we decided to form direct partnerships with the carriers. We have relationships with Vodafone India, as well as local carriers in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, all of which have rich information about their users.

What kind of information do you get from your carrier relationships? 

By integrating with the carriers, we can see things like whether someone is prepaid or if they have a contract. Using that information, you can find out the age of the device on the network. If someone has had their device for a while, that person is likely in the market for a new phone.

Most users in emerging markets are prepaid, so we also also get prepaid balance data from the carriers, as in whether someone has $20 in credit for 50 cents. That’s especially important information for a marketer looking to sell digital goods, which is a multitrillion-dollar market in India – and more than 90% of that happens through carrier pipes. Merchants integrate with the billing platforms directly. Something similar happens in China, but in China, roughly 30% of transactions happen through the carriers.

What about the privacy implications of that?

We integrate into a carrier’s data center. What the carrier gives us is a range of balances, rather than a precise balance tied to a specific person. We also don’t store that information. The data is used at the point of ad delivery and then we trash it.

India and China are two of the largest markets in APAC right now. What are some of the core differences between them?

For one, China has a language barrier, regulatory challenges and a much bigger local ecosystem of device manufacturers and services, whereas a large portion of the population in India is English speaking and engages with global services. Brands that aren’t agile enough to localize their solutions can still make money in India right now.

Take mobile games, for example. In China there are 40 or 50 independent local app stores. In India, there’s just Google Play.

The US is really starting to care about these markets – there are enough smartphones there now – but I don’t think there’s enough coverage of the vast difference between the consumers in APAC.

Although consumers in India are attracted to global brands, the manner in which they make purchases is fundamentally different. For one, Indian consumers buy a lot of digital goods, but the average phone bill is only about $4 or $5. So, think about it. If you want to sell someone something that’s “just” a dollar, that’s actually around a quarter of that person’s entire bill. You really need to consider the pricing.

Here’s another one: People in India buy shampoo sachets using micropayments frequently rather than buying big $10 bottles every once in a while. It’s the same shampoo inside the sachets as inside the bottles, but the bottles won’t sell. There’s simply a different psychology in the way people buy things in different countries and if you want to make an impact, you need to have cultural sensitivity.

 

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