Editor’s note: This was written by Kayla Matthews, a freelance writer focusing on technology and online media. You can find more of her work on VentureBeat, MakeUseOf, Motherboard and Gear Diary.
India’s retail sector is continuing its strong strides, recently surpassing China with an anticipated growth of $1.3 trillion by 2020.
Investments in India from large, recognizable brands like Amazon, IKEA, and Gap have combined with an embrace of technology from India’s government to result in the growth. Amazon, for example, recently acquired a 5% stake in Shoppers Stop, an Indian fashion retailer. Adidas India also intends to open 30 to 40 flagship stores by 2020 across Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru.
In addition to prominent investments from companies with significant technological infrastructure, notably Amazon—which accounts for more than 60.5% of online sales growth—India has cemented a role as an emerging internet superpower, especially in regard to mobile growth. International commercial interest and internet-based growth are several reasons the retail sector in India is surpassing China.
India: The Next Tech Superpower?
Before 2016, internet costs in India were high to the point of being inaccessible for many.
However, the rise of mobile network operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, as well as their joint effort with Google to manufacture affordable 4G handsets, has opened the internet to India more freely than ever.
A Jio promotional offer that started in 2016, offering users free voice calls and data, extended into 2017, pushing Jio’s subscriber base to more than 100 million. The promotion has prompted other providers to lower their pricing to compete.
Previously, India’s telecom sector experienced dominance from private players like Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea, with India’s government having little influence on the pricing or policies of internet access.
Many of these companies, such as Vodafone, are in debt, passing that on to customers with increased fees. Jio’s significant rise has been a game-changer for India’s internet accessibility.
India’s emergence as one of the most affordable countries for mobile data leads experts to believe India’s rise as the next tech superpower is imminent. Each month, Indian citizens consume 1.3 billion GB of wireless data and make $359 million in mobile payments. Since the Reliance Jio launch, the average data cost is Rs 21 per GB, which converts to about $0.32 USD, an affordable price that makes India’s internet growth sustainable.
China’s Grip on Digital Transactions
Although India’s strong mobile data accessibility has helped lead the country to surpass China in the retail sector, China remains at the forefront of digital transactions, having experienced a stable growth of 36% from 2016 to 2020, while India is anticipated to grow at an average of 26.2 percent during the same time. Chinese consumers have been more receptive to mobile payments in general, with projections for 2020 putting the percentage of Chinese smartphone users adopting mobile payments above 50 percent.
Regardless of China’s grip on digital transactions, the Indian government is aware of lagging behind in this regard, with several important governmental pushes to become the first digital, cashless society. India Stack is the name for the nation’s lofty ideal of building a unified software platform to create a digital revolution for Indian citizens.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pushed to ban 85 percent of the currency in circulation, stating the demonetization will help boost the economy and halt financial corruption. However, many Indian citizens have had difficulty obtaining their cash as a result, with banks experiencing long lines and running out of smaller bills upon the announcement.
Despite those early flaws, India’s push for demonetization signals an embrace of digital payment methods that will smooth the path for the country’s continuing drive to become the next tech superpower.
Additionally, there are fears among international businesses that the Chinese government is becoming hostile toward foreign firms operating in China, prompting companies like Seagate and Panasonic to cease operations there. Recently, China increased the income tax on foreign investments from 15 percent to 25 percent.
Amid such moves from China, India finds itself in an opportune situation for continued growth in the retail sector.