India in 2021: A Summary of Learnings
Throughout 2021, India showcased resilience and strong market opportunities, with the pandemic as a catalyst in accelerating the country’s technology-forward growth story. India boasts the world’s largest open internet market with over 800 million internet users, yet the ~45% internet penetration rate indicates that digital growth prospects are far from finished. With the rising purchasing power of Indian consumers, the blossoming of fintech platforms and the growing preference for digital payments, India has shown that its economy is primed for the digital era—and remains poised to become the third largest economy by 2030.
As part of The Times Group, India’s largest and oldest media conglomerate, we at Times Bridge saw the force of the digital revolution firsthand. 80% of Indians are now using one of The Times Group’s digital products every day. Times Internet has been crowned the world’s number one news and information destination on mobile devices. The Times Group’s short video platform, MX TakaTak, became the most downloaded Indian app globally in 2021, while streaming platform MX Player topped one billion downloads.
Among our portfolio of the world’s leading companies, successes emerged within three broad themes: cultural immersion, community building and growth milestones. Above all, India came to the fore during a challenging year with promising prospects for 2022.
The Times Bridge portfolio stayed culturally relevant through a series of in-market initiatives, from connecting users in new ways online to curating millennial-oriented content. Another key immersion strategy has been high-profile partnerships, which have helped our portfolio partners reach new consumers and build salience. Partnerships between Coursera and India’s leading technology institutions, Stack Overflow and key tech CXO communities via top business news platforms, and Malaria No More and government agencies demonstrate how our partners found their way into the top echelons of Indian influence.
Partnerships also unlocked a series of “firsts”. Headspace’s tie-up with India’s leading premium lifestyle membership led to its first-ever live meditation event for the Indian market. MUBI collaborated with Amazon Prime and Times Prime to reach new audiences across India and, for the first time, found its way into the International Film Festival of India, demonstrating the new-age prominence of streaming platforms. We remain convinced that the key to cultural immersion is through localized content, top-tier partners and relevant events.
Above all, one of the defining aspects of 2021 was coming together as a community. We are proud to share that our portfolio companies were able to use their unique expertise and positions of privilege to help those in need.
Last January, India launched one of the world’s largest vaccination drives to boost its economy and build a safer, stronger nation. Uber offered free rides for vulnerable groups travelling to and from vaccination centers, while Headspace extended free subscriptions to health care professionals. Other partners found varied ways to foster support, connection and appreciation: Girl Effect extending telehealth services to girls; Houzz honoring India’s top home design professionals; Malaria No More spreading awareness and knowledge to at-risk communities; Wattpad fostering an online communities for storytelling and reading enthusiasts; and Smule sponsoring events to fundraise for worthy causes. These connections signal our deep commitment to the communities where we operate and serve.
As our companies cemented their leadership status globally, they also reached new milestones in India as life returned to normal. New trends gained momentum, such as hybrid learning models and trips combining work and leisure. Indian consumers continued to soak up all-things digital, setting new benchmarks across video streaming, podcasts—and even weather-related social media reporting, which went viral on several occasions. And with our newest partnerships with Luminary and Stocktwits announced in 2021—while our other companies doubled down on hiring, expanded into new cities, elevated India as an APAC hub and innovated for the world—we saw how India is becoming increasingly central to global corporate strategy.
Reflecting on 2021, we are proud to see that our companies harnessed their digital capabilities and maintained an adaptive mindset to continue winning across India. Looking ahead to this year, we expect to see digital penetration increase in small cities and towns, boosting the already-high engagement with edtech platforms, video and audio streaming content and other digital offerings. Online users will continue to seek exciting content from around the world, as well as communities of other like-minded individuals. The best companies will gain a competitive edge by immersing themselves in local trends and adapting to the needs in their ecosystem.
After all, our experiences in India’s dynamic markets have sharpened our philosophy: that growth, immersion and community building are synergistic, rather than mutually exclusive, in the making of a truly global company.