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September 24, 2021 6:48 AM

How the app ecosystem is engaging mobile-first users in India

India has emerged as one of the top casual gaming countries in the world, and a predominant reason for this growth is the mobile-led democratisationIndia has emerged as one of the top casual gaming countries in the world, and a predominant reason for this growth is the mobile-led democratisation

By Vasuta Agarwal

The pandemic has reshaped life as we know it, permanently moving the consumer landscape to a mobile-first world. Amidst all the changes, the pandemic-induced massive digitisation has catapulted India to a leading mobile-first consumer economy, with apps becoming the primary medium in which the connected consumer lives and breathes.

One of the most unique trends seen as a result is how the app ecosystem has captured millions of eyeballs across the nation, completely transforming the face of entertainment in India. This trend has been spearheaded by three key categories: gaming, short-form video and OTT.

Gaming rush

India has emerged as one of the top casual gaming countries in the world, and a predominant reason for this growth is the mobile-led democratisation. This has shifted the typical profile of an Indian gamer to represent people across age, gender and geography.

During the pandemic, India’s smartphone users took to gaming for the primary reason of ‘entertainment’, ‘relaxation’ or ‘skill-building’. This reflects in the fivefold growth in ad spends and threefold increase in installs in the last year, among categories such as fantasy, real-money, and hyper-casual gaming. Real-money gaming apps continue to thrive and feed into the connected consumers’ entertainment demand — a unique trend despite several institutional restrictions across various states in India. No wonder leading entertainment brands such as Netflix and Aha are exploring or investing in building games as their next big business opportunity.

If things continue to play out the way they are, gaming will soon be as mainstream as video streaming.

The audio-video wave

Short or bite-sized video is emerging as the connected consumer’s go-to platform for news, entertainment, and respite during these quarantined times. The pandemic drove a stick-shift growth in the overall time spent, and the number of videos created and consumed on such apps.

Short-form video is a binge-watch that prevails throughout the day as viewers escape into bite-sized moments of joy.

In a span of six months, we have seen over 10 players emerge in this category of social short-form video, completely redefining how both urban and rural consumers are engaging with content, creators and brands. And, with almost half the population having access to a smartphone, it has never been easier to become a content creator or influencer. This very influencer ecosystem on short video apps is also pioneering the social commerce segment, which is expected to account for $4-5 billion of GMV by 2025, according to market tracker RedSeer Consulting.

OTT platforms cut through the limitations of conventional channels to bring immediately accessible content for audiences in a manner most convenient to them; anytime, anywhere! Exclusive global and local content releases, reality TV, and live sporting events have fuelled consumption since the first lockdown.

Connected consumers are more likely to give up cable TV or DTH and adopt OTT, if given a choice. Increasingly, every OTT brand — be it Zee5, Prime Video, Netflix, Spotify, or Gaana — are curating mobile-first packages to lure more and more consumers into the fold. Going by recent trends, it would be extremely difficult for one to have not viewed an OTT brand’s ad or consumed their content in the past few months.

Just a year ago, one wouldn’t have imagined that the app ecosystem would be the primary channel of entertainment for millions of consumers across the nation. With the imminent advent of 5G technology and the further proliferation of smartphones, mobile app-based entertainment will soon be a reality for billions.

The author is MD, Asia Pacific, InMobi

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