Monetizing the new India Oppurtunity

ISB Alumni Engagement under the Aegis of the Finance Special Interest Group

On March 29, 2019, ISB Alumni Finance Special Interest Group (Finance SIG), in collaboration with JSW Ventures, organised an event at JSW Ventures, Mumbai on “Monetising the New India Opportunity”.  Professor D.V.R. Seshadri delivered a thought-provoking keynote address, followed by panel discussions.



Professor Seshadri’s insightful talk shed light on the demographics of India and how various agencies assessed it on the basis of different parameters and definitions. The truth is that 680 million still live below the empowerment line at a per capita consumption of USD 27 per month. The population of India, which stood at 1.1 billion in 2001, is set to touch 1.4 billion by 2020. India’s  rural poor population, which accounts for 54% of the total population, will come down to 36% by 2020 due to urban migration. The primary drivers of urban migration are the desire for a better life and access to better education and healthcare. A fourth factor is the lack of caste-based stigma in urban areas, which continues to be a major deterrent to growth in rural areas.

Prof. Seshadri expounded on the vast opportunities and gaps in Tier 2 cities. The concept of absolute value applies here, with marketeers who revel in market asymmetry. The market has an incredible hunger for consumption, he observed, pointing to the example of a Vijayawada entrepreneur who was generating revenue from the garbage in Vijayawada. Healthcare, livelihood and education are all needed in these areas. Eighty percent of healthcare is concentrated in six metros, with only 20% distributed across Tier 2 and 3 cities. Mastery of the digital space is essential for capturing these markets as consumers are tech savvy and mobile smart.


The challenges of these markets are poverty, a fragmented customer base, poor post-sales service, rigid mindsets and sensitive group dynamics. However, all of these can be overcome with boundary spanning capabilities. The success mantra is to have passion, vision, conviction, resilience, tenacity, agility and leadership, said Prof. Seshadri. We have to create a compelling customer experience, exploit the power of core operations and keep reinventing business models to stay ahead in this market.

Panel 1: Product Positioning and Channels

The theme of the first panel was “Product Positioning and Channels” with the following panellists:
  1. Manish Taneja, Founder at Purplle, an online marketplace for women-centric cosmetics
  2. Abhishek Tiwari, Founder of Velociti, a global provider of technology deployment services
  3. Arjun Zacharia, Founder of Wooplr, a product discovery platform for food, fashion and decor 
  4. Jasmeet Thind, Founder of Coutloot, an online marketplace that allows users to buy and sell pre-owned apparel, footwear, bags and accessories.
  5. Amit Chowdhary, Founder of Dawaa DostEx- Director of Motilal Oswal Private Equity
  6. Rajeev Dhal (Moderator), VP of ShareIt, the world’s fastest cross-platform file transfer tool

Rajeev Dhal, the moderator, provided statistics on the size and categories of Tier 2 and 3 cities. All of the panellists commented on the dynamics of the market. Some interesting points that were raised during the discussion were as follows:
  • Indians are not familiar with auctioning but know and understand bargaining.
  • Purplle, a women-focused business, has 2.5 million customers. It adds a million new customers a year and has around five million organic views. Notably, 30% to 40% of Youtube content caters to women.
  • Apps with vernacular content are the most popular in Tier 2 and 3 cities.
  • Surat, Pune and Jaipur have a better growth rate than Mumbai.
  • Three base factors are essential for this market — awareness, availability and affordability.
  • Coutloot’s  signature statement was that “there is India and there is Bharat”.
  • WhatsApp is the “baap” (father) of small town penetration, in other words, it is the key to penetrating these markets.
Panel 2: Product Market Fit

The second panel discussion focused on current innovations in products and services to achieve market potential. The panellists were:
  1. Bhavesh Navlakha, Founder of Sukkhi, largest-selling fashion jewellery brand on most Indian marketplaces 
  2. Rajesh Mehta, CCSO of Liladhar Pasoo, an acclaimed logistics solutions provider
  3. Ashwin Suresh, Founder of PocketAces, India’s fastest growing digital content house
  4. Sachin Tagra, Head of Capital18, private-equity firm that focuses on making investments in entertainment, media and technology ventures 
  5. Manish Chowdhary, Founder of Fit & Glow, a wellness solution in the personal grooming range
  6.  Prof. DVR Seshadri (Moderator), ISB
Key points from the panel discussion moderated by Prof. Seshadri were as follows:
  • It is important to identify trends and build content around that.
  • The 10 fastest growing cities in the world are in India. You have high gross margins here, so you have to build a phenomenal team agile enough to morph and cater to it.
  • The market size in Tier 3 and 4 towns is 50 to 60 million.
  • The fifth “P” to be added to the four P’s of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) are “partnership values”, which are very  important in these markets.