The Indian Family and the Mobile Internet

Apr 08, 2015

It’s hard to deny the magnitude of media and household attention that has been focused on the recent hyper-growth of the digital economy in India. Indeed, it is incredible how much lifestyles in India have changed in the past year due to the conveniences of the mobile internet. Today, we can purchase everything from clothes to cars and sofas to solitaires on our mobile devices thanks to NEA portfolio company Naaptol and other innovative ecommerce platforms. Every city has thousands of delivery people on scooters rushing to get us a hot meal from the restaurant of our choice, delivered within 30 minutes. We can employ the services of plumbers and physiotherapists, or book our Saturday night movie or dinner with the click of a button. And it doesn’t stop there. Now we can even buy homes using the help of applications like IndiaHomes.

As much as it is ubiquitous, the use of the mobile internet is largely dominated by the single, twenty-something professional, typically working in the IT industry. A few years from now, a large portion of this cohort of consumers will evolve into young moms and dads— which is why we at NEA are betting on the Indian family. With 75 million young middle-class families in this country, this is an enormous opportunity that cannot be ignored.

When the eCommerce boom started to happen in India a few years ago, we identified the Baby and Kid sector as one we should track. We were well aware of the potential in this sector, thanks to our earlier investments in Redbaby in China and in the USA. We met with all the Indian startups who were going after this market, and made a conscious decision to wait until a leader emerged. At the back of our minds, we always knew it would be FirstCry. This premonition was largely based on quality of FirstCry’s founder, Supam Maheshwari, who has proven himself to be an entrepreneur who can effectively work towards a big picture but still not lose sight of the details. FirstCry has now become synonymous with Baby and Kid online shopping in India and is well ahead of both its vertical and horizontal competitors. We are proud that we are now investors in this company and are excited to partner with Supam to accelerate to the next phase of growth.

There are a myriad of ways in which the young Indian parent will take advantage of the mobile internet. Using social networks such as World of Moms– also a FirstCry creation– moms will connect with other moms in their local area to share experiences and advice on anything pertaining to motherhood. Mothers will see listings and reviews of local playschools and pediatricians to help them make the best choice for their child. In the very foreseeable future, there will be applications created that enable connections with tutors in the local area, so that picking a guitar teacher for a daughter or math tutor for a son will be significantly easier for a parent than it is today.

Another disruptive trend we anticipate is the widespread adoption of mobile learning. The challenges in the education system in India are well known. The high student-teacher ratios make it impossible for our kids to get any form of customized education, or curriculum tailored to their individual pace of learning. eLearning in India is a concept that is finally gaining traction. We will see more and more kids augment their school experience with tablet or smart-phone based education that is highly personalized to their needs. Indeed, this trend has already been started by companies like Coursera, which has gained widespread adoption in India.

Some years ago, we invested in Nova IVI. Today, it is the largest chain of IVF Fertility clinics in India with more than 5,000 pregnancies to-date and the highest success-rate in the country. Our investment in FirstCry is a continuation of this theme of investing behind the Indian family. We will continue to look at businesses around this theme, and are particularly excited to explore those that leverage the mobile internet.