Tourism is big business in India. Not only is hospitality the subcontinent’s largest revenue generator among the service industries, contributing more than 6 percent to the country’s GDP, but it’s also a critically important employer: almost 9 percent of jobs in India are hotel-affiliated. In L2’s new ‘Digital IQ Index: Brazil Russia India‘ report, when it came specifically to the Indian market, hotels dominated the top spots. The overall top two performing brands (Westin and ITC) and six of the top 10 (Taj, InterContinental, Le Meridien, JW Marriott), were all global or local hotel groups. Each brand had its own distinct successes that launched it into a ‘genius’ or ‘gifted’ ranking — Westin’s “Heavenly Bed” campaign, ITC’s WelcomZest Lounge blog, Taj’s live stream of its BRICS Summit, for example — but one thing they all do well is prioritize local content. Instead of relying on the reach of global sites and global campaigns, as most luxury brands do in the emerging markets, hotels in the Indian market have done a very good job of actively engaging with local communities.
Indians are some of the most connected people on the planet, and they’re becoming increasingly connected on-the-go, with many relying solely on a mobile device. Mobile penetration in India is almost 4x its internet penetration. 59 percent of Indian users now skip the desktop/laptop altogether and access the internet on a handheld. And yet, among luxury brands, just 25 percent offer any kind of m-commerce functionality in the region, a huge loss in revenue opportunity–especially given how fast India’s luxury-loving wealthy population is growing.
By 2017, India will have a 1000 percent more households with an income of $100,000 or greater. By 2016, Indians will be spending 12x more on online retail than they did just two years ago. Even though the lack of e/m-commerce options is frustrating for rich Indian consumers, the even bigger hurdle involves payment options. Because, while rich Indians can simply bypass online limitations by traveling abroad to purchase goods (which 60 percent of them already do), the credit card issue is a serious impasse. Less than one-fifth of Indians currently carry a credit card, rendering not just the majority of e/m-commerce options moot but all of them. In both Brazil and Russia, due to low credit card penetration, at least a handful of brands have established alternative methods of payment — installments, cash on delivery, etc. — but in India, none of the prestige brands have done so. Not even the ‘genius’ hotels.
One of the biggest takeaways from this report is that, even for those at the front of the Digital IQ pack, there is still plenty of room for improvement.