Post COVID India

"EDITION 3"

Anmol Maini

Been thinking a bit what the future of consumer companies could look like in India in a post COVID world. In part inspired by this piece by Sajith Pai (Director @ Blume Ventures) & tweet by Gaurav Munjal (Founder @ Unacademy). In most of these ideas, COVID will be the catalyst for these new/existing spaces to become more popular, and going to touch on a couple of specific sector and some broader ideas:

Education:

College students at a recent Zoom party.
  • This is probably the most obvious industry that has been impacted by COVID globally with school (K-12) & college education moving online. (I have a bit of personal experience with this in high school where a subset of my classes in high school had to be taught over Google Hangouts because of a diplomatic issue b/w the US & Indian governments). US colleges seem to have adopted Zoom completely for holding all lectures & discussions online, and it sounds like Indian schools are adopting similar digital platforms to hold lectures. But how can platforms or universities further make online lectures more social. As it currently stands the "social" & "live" aspect of online lectures aren't being taken advantage of enough, and students want to replicate some sense of normalcy in a socially distant manner.

  • With virtual/online education becoming more popular in the future, students still need tools to work together if they can't physically work together. Tandem does a great job at this for the workplace to let people be in a "virtual office" and jump into rooms and collaborate to work together in applications like Google Docs/Task Management Tools/Development Environments (for Pair Programming), and tools like Miro or Mural work great for white-boarding and brainstorming. A lot of these tools could actually work well in the life of a college/school student but you might need a couple of tweaks to make it more geared towards them (would also work well for classes with group projects), but I can see people building better collaboration tools for college students and selling software licenses directly to the school/university.

Fitness:

  • Though fitness & working out is still a pretty niche market in India (India 1 and maybe India 2), we might see a shift to people wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle in a post COVID India. And one thing that might help with this are online workout classes (either recorded or live). Major gym chains in India are restricted to the bigger cities so reach a greater mass of India, it might be easier to go Direct To Home. Indian fitness companies like cult.fit are already experimenting with this at a small scale, but could follow the Peloton model to expand on it. Also recording/doing classes with instructors in native languages could help expand the reach of the classes & platform. Yoga brands could probably also capitalize on this (Baba Ramdev probably has one of the greatest reaches) with doing online virtual yoga camps as opposed to their current format of in-person yoga camps and DVD recordings of classes.

  • Another idea (geared more towards India 1α) is an expansion of at-home personal training & gyms. This already exists to a small extent, but maybe there is room to grow (platform to book personal trainers- future.fit but in-person personal training at home vs virtual personal training at-home/gym). Another idea could be around at-home gym equipment that is not exorbitantly priced and doesn't take too much space (what the Peloton/Mirror for India could look like for India 1) combined with online content for workouts.

Spending Time w/ Family & Friends

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  • Social seems to be moving from text based platforms towards audio & video ones as we spend lesser & lesser time with each other. And while this won't always be the case, maybe some of the social shift to synchronous & synchronous-ish (not completely asynchronous) platforms remains.

  • Casual games (esp. those with a synchronous aspect) might come with an in-built video aspect in the future. I, like many other millennials, have spending a lot more time on Zoom & Houseparty and I think the games aspect on Houseparty is very cool and can probably be opened up further to create an ecosystem around that. Similarly social experiences, at least for the time being, have moved online (hanging out & drinking, playing poker or board games, watching Netflix together and even listening to music sets together), and while a lot of these won't last I think for the gaming aspect itself, people see a lot of value in feeling connected while playing. Playing Poker with Zoom added (or Ludo with Zoom added) is significantly more fun than without it.

  • Another behavioral shift that might take place is that a lot of the new Indian internet users (whether it be the older generations or people from Tier 2, 3+ India) will get more comfortable with video calling. (Zoom/VC is the new WhatsApp in some essence).

E-Sports

  • With basically all sporting leagues & events suspended indefinitely (including the Olympics, Euros and more getting pushed back a year), e-sports is as strong as ever. Just over the last 2 weeks or so there was a PUBG (Online multiplayer battle royale game) league for South Asia (teams from India) with over a 1M viewers on each Hindi live stream on their YouTube channel (there were also simultaneous streams in English, Tamil & Bengali with viewers in the 10s of thousands). e-sports (and PUBG in particular) has picked up significantly in the last couple of years and COVID could be the catalyst that pushes it into the mainstream in India. We could have our own industry of leagues, teams & streaming platforms as the various games and streamers get popular.

  • Another intersting trend that has globally popped up is that traditional sports are broadcasting their e-sports equivalents so that fans get some sort of live consumption of sports (re-runs of iconic games are also being broadcasted a lot). Among the more popular ones, there's a knockout FIFA tournament with 128 clubs across Europe participating, while the Phoenix Suns (NBA team) is playing regular season games on Twitch on NBA 2k. But motorports has picked up e-sports most heavily with a bi-weekly recurring F1 calendar featuring actual F1 drivers, other motorsports drivers and other popular personalities driving in race-car simulators in their own houses. So far we've had Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc, Jenson Button, and George Russell participate (amongst other F1 drivers and Ben Stokes (cricketer) & Liam Payne (Singer)). There have also been an Indian drivers who has participated into motorsports e-sports (Arjun Maini) in the Veloce Pro Series. And while there is no popular cricket video game that can be turned into an e-sports series, maybe someone creates a cricket version of nba.fm

I don’t want to take anything away from the moment because these are very sobering times globally. And it’s unfortunately quite certain that a lot of businesses are going to be severely impacted (a lot of good startups will die out), but the Indian startup Industry is going to come out stronger than ever out of this pandemic (that I am 💯% sure of)