Rohit Dadwal
Nov 3, 2014

India’s ‘mobile tree’ is ready for harvest, but where's the investment?

Why doesn't mobile ad spending in the country match up?

India’s ‘mobile tree’ is ready for harvest, but where's the investment?

Marketers keep an eye on trends and being savvy enough to see the opportunity, have found that India’s mobile market is booming. This is true in all aspects of the industry. Handset manufacturers, like Xiaomi for example, are actively strategizing to capture the market. Micromax, on the other hand, is busy cementing its position as a low-cost handset provider for the local market, surpassing Samsung in sales earlier in the year. On the mobile services front, the billions of dollars being poured into ventures like Flipkart and Snapdeal, have led to an m-commerce revolution in the country.

Furthermore, expectations for the mobile market in India are seriously ramping up. To get a feel for ad spends and marketer outlook in India, the Mobile Marketing Association partnered with Exchange4Media to publish the 2014 Mobile Ad Spends India report. Through extensive research and conversations with a number of senior brand and agency leaders in India, we found that mobile ad spend in India is expected to grow by 52-percent. Hitting about USD120-million in 2015, this marks a sharp spike from the roughly 40 percent growth expected in the previous two years.

All the data points to one thing – India’s ‘Mobile Tree’ is ripe and ready for harvest.

However, while these numbers look great, the report highlights that this only comprises a startling 1.9-percent of the total ad spend estimated (USD6.4-billion) in India in 2015.

This despite the accelerated growth rates of mobile in the country.

This despite the predictions that India will make-up 12-percent of the world’s mobile connections by the end of this year.

So, why the disparity in budget allocation when mobile is by far the best way to get closer to the customer in this day and age?

My point of view – just as there are some final preparations to be made to the orchard before enjoying the fruits of labour, similarly in India, there are three particular areas that require a close watch as mobile hits the mainstream.

Education and skills development is one of the top concerns many senior leaders grapple with. Much still needs to be done for mobile marketing education, for both brands and agencies in India. In some instances, India has been behind the technology curve in the digital space. Perhaps this will work out in the country’s favour now, allowing marketers to learn from the work done in more mature markets, picking out best practices and avoiding mistakes.

A lack of curiosity and courage could spell the death of this nascent industry – even before it takes off. Mobile has led to a shift in power between brands and consumers, with most of it landing in the consumer’s lap. On mobile, consumers are the gatekeepers when it comes to which brand messages they receive or interact with. Marketers need to give reasons for the consumers to ‘pull’ their ads instead of traditional ‘push’ strategies. Perhaps this scares us and has led to marketers being very tentative in their adoption of mobile.

With its ability to be the connective tissue between media, mobile offers supreme targeting and limitless opportunities for creativity. The wealth of data available makes measurement easy, and mobile a strong tool for marketers to accomplish their goals. In India, more marketers need to start working with mobile in a more consistent and continuous manner. A wider and stronger industry push is maybe what the market needs. 

Furthermore, as the market grows, and the number of smartphones in the country continue to rise, the mobile ecosystem in India will need some infrastructure upgrades. Around the world, programmatic ad buying is fast gaining popularity for its strengths in audience targeting. India still faces sluggish progress on this front, partly due to the lack of experienced players. However, this is likely to change during the next few years; local brands, agencies and publishers must be keep up with the fast-paced technology environment or risk losing relevance.

But, like with every harvest, the first fruits are often the sweetest, and India’s mobile market is no different. Brands willing to invest in mobile training and education, ramp up on technology and allocate greater budgets to a mobile-first strategy, will enjoy strong returns.

Mobile can be expected to evolve for a number of years to come. Apart from programmatic and real time buying, there are wearables, native advertising, virtual reality, and a number of other enabling technologies that will continue to shape the industry. The possibilities are endless.

India, like all other markets, needs to keep pace in this highly competitive industry. The conversation needs to change and the disparity in budget allocation, re-considered.

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