Microsoft Accelerator Research on Smartphone usage in India

We are planning to release research findings every month as part of our startup support program at the Microsoft Accelerator in India.. There are about 50 different topics that we are curious about and are consistently doing research to find out ways to help our accelerator companies perform market research, target early adopters and focus on getting more customer traction.

This series is part of our accelerator database on engagement with startups, investors, mentors & entrepreneurship.

The first research today that we are sharing is based on survey of mobile phone usage in India. Specifically we wanted to focus on smartphones and the adoption of apps on the smartphones.

There were 3 important questions some of our startups that are building mobile applications had, which we wanted to find answers for.

1. Who are the early adopters of mobile applications on smartphones? By age, gender, type of phone & OS.

2. What types of apps get quicker adoption than others? Games vs. social and Connected vs. standalone apps.

3. What is the usage of mobile web among smartphone users?

There are 3 most surprising answers are:

1. Older people (>35) make up 40+% of smart phone users. Used phones make up 18% overall and nearly 25% of smaller city users.

2. While Blackberry is still strong among older users, Samsung has the most number of touch screen and smartphone users overall, followed by a wide range of local brands.

3. The awareness of apps among both younger and older audiences is miserably low. <27% have EVER downloaded an app in India. Over 33% overall and 44% of older users have no data plan.

What does this mean for app developers in India?

1) Like worldwide stats, games trumps productivity and other apps on the mobile. But if you have a game that requires a data plan you are in trouble. So for game makers, the ability to make money from “ads” that are served via a mobile ad server is limited

2. Given that a lot of users are buying used (second-hand) phones in India, expect to support older models for a significant amount of time.

3. Given very little awareness of “apps” among Indian smartphone users, look for offline mechanisms (kiosks) to pop up to support app distribution.

P.S. Some of the slides have not rendered properly on Slideshare even after 2 attempts, so, here is a pdf version. Smartphone usage in India.

10 thoughts on “Microsoft Accelerator Research on Smartphone usage in India”

  1. Mukund, I think we ought to start defining smart-phone differently. Most BB users for instance are on it just for email and BBM (now some do Whatsapp too) – the typical office going BB user in India doesn’t download apps. Think of the Nokia Symbian line phones like E63, E72 – again, very limited app download and usage among the older population (though younger audience goes berserk) that buy these for productivity.

    I wonder what the stat looks like if you look at only Android and iOS users – their propensity to try out apps, etc. Do you have such a picture? Of course the user numbers would be low.

    I think an interesting way to classify mobile users in India could be those with a data plan, and those without – rather than smart phone/feature phone. Also, I am sure looking at feature phone app usage would also be more encouraging.

  2. Mukund, the insight is great.

    I’ve Q on MS Accelerator in India, the 1st selection criteria. Lot of ideas implemented/trying out in US, has different meaning and may take light years to happen in India if the same co./ Startup to come to India. Why was that constraint ‘We are likely to pass on a product and/or business model which is a clone of a US startup which can be found on TechCrunch, and has no unique differentiation” ?

    1. Its because we don’t like simple clones of US products. We are looking for unique products with a sustainable advantage, not just ones that focus on better execution of a US company for the local market.

  3. Mukund,

    Interesting data points to consider.

    Are we ignoring a segment of users who do not use data plan, but use wifi predominantly to consume content on the mobile? Or is that too small at this point of time?


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