Is the Indian hyperlocal industry really (hyper)local?

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This AI generated Text-to-Speech widget generated by Reverie Vachak.

The Indian hyperlocal industry is gaining prominence for all the right reasons. What started with Zomato, BigBasket and UrbanClap, roughly around 2010, is all set to exceed Rs. 2300 crores by 2020.

Fuelled by an increase in awareness among the urban and rural populations, greater penetration & use of technology, and an overall improvement in the mood of the economy, hyperlocal is fast becoming a buzzword. The growing need for on-demand delivery has led to around 180 start-ups being founded in this domain in 2015 alone, sparking a 187% increase with only 96 new companies in 2014. Between 2011 and 2016, there was an investment of over $1 billion in this arena in India.

Let’s talk names

Retail is the most popular segment online. Valued at $13.5 billion in 2014, it is poised to cross the $100 billion mark by 2020. When it comes to hyperlocal services, the B2C breakdown looks something like this:

  • Food technology – 26%
  • Grocery – 19%
  • Concierge – 9%
  • Home services – 6%
  • Laundry – 6%
  • Logistics – 6%
  • HealthTech – 4%
  • Automobile – 3%
  • Beauty – 3%
  • Others – 18%

Concierge includes a wide range of services such as house help, electricians, plumbers, beauty experts etc.

Some of the best known start-ups in the above segments are :

ConciergeGroceryPersonal logisticsHealthcareErrandsDeals
DoorMintPepperTapStreetJumperPractoGetMyPeonCoupon Raja
HaptikNature’s BasketPorterPlussHouse Maid For YouGrabOn
Time SaverzVeggyKartSprintrGoqiiHelper4uLittle
Good ServiceBasket4HomeLocaLegsAttuneQykappCouponzGuru
HouseJoySatvakartPickingoLybrate CashKaro
Food DeliveryLaundryB2BBeauty servicesNetworkingTaxi Aggregator
TinyOwlWassup on DemandRoadrunnrPurplleTinderOlacabs
NashtaUrban DhobiAsanaBelitaTrulyMadlyEasyCab
FrshOneClickWashShipprVyomoFrivilTab Cab
Just EatSuper DhobiWebExBulbulAisleScoot
Delivery ChefDirk Ka DhobiDocuSignMyGlammPlenty Of FishJugnoo
MealMeWashbuddyTownRushPamperHow About WeGO4Cabs

Apart from the aforementioned, there are a few up and coming companies that are beginning to make a mark in their domains.

  • Voler – It provides rental cars on demand, dropped at one’s doorstep and is presently operational in Delhi and Bangalore.
  • Salad Days – Currently active only in Gurgaon, Salad Days provides handcrafted premium salads and cold-pressed juices. Their uniqueness is that the vegetables they use are home-grown.
  • WelcomeCure – An online homeopathic tele-consultation platform, WelcomeCure claims to treat over 80 common and 20 uncommon clinical conditions. The mode of communication is live chat and Skype, enabling patients to consult from anywhere in the world. The start-up claims to have the world’s largest homeopathic database of cured cases and patient management systems.
  • Vee – Partaking in the growing demand for social networking, Vee is a hyperlocal interest based “discovery and networking platform”. The target group of this app is the youth i.e. people between 18 and 24 years of age.
  • BabyBerry – Exclusively for new parents, this app provides features like vaccination charts, health records management and doctor discovery, enabling parents to keep track of their baby’s health needs.

Catering to the regional audiences

Most of the hyperlocal apps do not have language preferences. Let us take BigBasket, for example. It offers only English as the language of communication. This directly delists all non-English speakers from their potential customer database. However, the use of images helps convey the different categories present, and a basic understanding of written numbers will allow a non-English speaker to navigate through the app, albeit with some difficulty.

Take Uber, an app in a domain where images cannot come to a user’s rescue. Uber has permeated tier II & III cities in India. However, it still does not offer regional languages as an option to the passenger. A person who cannot read English will find it almost impossible to use this app for its intended purpose. Even the help menu is entirely written in English. For a first-time user who may not be very exposed to understanding imagery, the significance of the pin (which defines the passenger’s current location) may not be very clear. Features such as pinching and zooming to see the exact, turn-by-turn route of a cab on its way to pick-up is not explained, therefore, may remain unexplored by said segment of the population.

This comes as a contrast to Olx, a name now synonymous to an online second-hand market. The website offers two languages – Hindi and English. It is better than most sites that offer only English as a medium as it includes varied audience, not just English-conversant ones. Meanwhile, Quickr, currently allows content to be translated into 8 different Indian languages whereas proffers 6.

The masterstroke by OLX was launching its ‘Bech De’, ‘Khareed Le’ and ‘Mundi Dance’ campaigns in the digital and print media which was :

  1. In different language to suit local conditions
  2. In the vocabulary that resonated with people

Olx’s traffic grew by 150 times in the last 3.5 years since the launch of its first TV ad.

What’s next for the Indian hyperlocal industry?

In a country where Karbonn, a mobile phone company launched a smartphone mainly for non-English speakers, by not localising one’s app to the region it is catering to, a company stands to lose out on a sizeable user base, and consequently, potential revenue. Of the 1.3 billion people of India, Forbes says 1 billion have access to mobile phones. Of these, as per IAMAI, roughly 371 million Indians use mobile internet. About 109 million (around 30%) of this group hails from rural India while the other 70% is the urban populace. Google says in its report that nearly all of India’s 198 million English speakers are online. If we assume that to be true, the remaining 173 million mobile internet users are non-English speakers and are, by extension, not currently serviced by the apps.

The sooner the companies learn to speak Indian, the more they stand to see a considerable increase in their penetration, thus strengthening their chances of not withering away with time.

If logic and intuition weren’t enough, even data says that language-backed content is the way forward.

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