Jakob Nielsen is given credit for the 90-9-1 rule of Internet participation.
The “90–9–1″ version of this rule states that 1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.
In the last 6 months, I have gotten 21 Indian web and mobile consumer applications data on visitors, engagement and contribution.
In India the numbers are closer to the 99%, 0.9% and 0.1% in terms of lurkers, participants and contributors of any consumer application.
This explains a lot of things, including the 2-speed nature of Indian market adoption.
Its not that we don’t have early adopters, its that most people (99%) are really laggard adopters.
The difference between 1% and 0.1% is dramatic for startups who need the early contributors to get the community going.
To give you an example. Lets take a mobile application which has 3 competitors in India. Each of the 3 products has been in the market for about 6 months and still they total about 140K total downloads.
In the 1% scenario they would total 1.4 Million downloads. This assumes 140M total Internet users for both mobile and web. In reality there are only about 50-80 Million real broadband users.
Is it cultural? I have heard many folks blame (yet again) our Indian culture & education system which values listening to others than voicing our opinions. I don’t quite agree with that though.
I don’t know why exactly we have only 0.1% of people contributing.
This however has dramatic implications for “traction” among startups.
If you are going to show traction and have between 20K to 50K users or downloads, then you should realize that the 99, 0.9 and 0.1 % rule applies again to your users.
Only 0.1% of those who download will actually be contributors (such as check-in to locations if you are Location based service).
So the engagement metrics will be consistent but woefully low compared to what our US counterparts are seeing.
Traction among Indian consumer startups is not really “traction” in other markets.
P.S. I am still trying to see if this is the same for ecommerce startups. I am hesitant to think it will be the same, but among new and smaller (lesser known) ecommerce companies, these numbers are in the range. However, among established companies, the US engagement (or purchase) numbers are probably more valid.