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A New Normal – Heighten Demand for Digital Services Amidst Covid-19 Lockdown As India grapples with this new way of life, it is impossible to not see the impact on digital content consumption. People are learning to adapt to the new reality and digital content is seeing a surge in demand for media streaming, videoconferencing, videogames, video streaming, and online learning as a result

By Phil Pomford

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world thought it functioned. Consumers have had to change their lifestyles significantly as social distancing, working from home, closed schools and cancelled travels have disrupted the usual routine. Countries and cities are in lockdown for days now and this has led people to "go digital' now more than ever in the last five years. As India grapples with this new way of life, it is impossible to not see the impact on digital content consumption. People are learning to adapt to the new reality and digital content is seeing a surge in demand for media streaming, videoconferencing, videogames, video streaming, and online learning as a result.

Digital is the need of the hour as billions are isolated and quarantined in their homes. This has accelerated the demand for digital content owing to high smartphone penetration and the availability of economical mobile broadband. Like everywhere else, Indian brands are riding high to adapt to this digital tsunami. They are embracing the digital wave and some would argue to have been riding it for some time. India has a high proportion of new B2B start-up companies that are nimble and think creatively out of the box. This is creating a lot of buzz and opportunity for innovation. India is also advancing technology and driving value to consumers by building desi products rather than attracting off-shore ideas.

This shouldn't be surprising. Digital services operate a business model that offers subscribers personalisation, value for money, and most importantly, convenience. This convenience is prompting consumers to sign up for new services that they may not have previously considered such as media streaming or video gaming.

The lockdown period has transformed all of us into arduous users of technology. A whole host of new services are growing and adapting to the new COVID-19 landscape. Following the closure of many schools and universities, online education is experiencing strong growth as parents are forced to home school their children. We have seen a big uptake on online learning with homegrown Indian merchants such as Simplilearn, one of the world's leading certification training providers and long-standing partner of Worldpay from FIS.

During the pandemic, there has been a shift towards professionals seeking training and coaching via online channels. Several educational institutes across India started organising online lectures and exams. Ed-tech has seen a surge as the already digitized education medium proficiently started using technology to offer free online courses like Coursera, edX, etc.; making education available to all even during the lockdown period.

In addition, online video gaming and e-sports are other areas that are gaining notable traction and have experienced a surge. There is also more live-streaming of video games than the pre-COVID era. E-sports like PUBG and FIFA 20 are seeing major takers in India. In fact, it seems likely that mobile e-sports will be a remarkable growth driver across the global games market in the next few years.

According to a Google-KPMG report, the online gaming segment is estimated to be a $1.1 billion market by 2021, and India is expected to have more than 628 million gamers by then. The global campaign #PlayApartTogether by gaming companies is offering free content to users and is backed by the World Health Organization to promote gaming as a healthy social activity during these times. Endorsing online multi-player gaming is a way of maintaining social distancing while helping mental health by connecting people and boosting communication.

India is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for digital consumers, with more than half a billion internet subscribers. The digital capabilities are improving rapidly and this is creating significant economic value for millions of Indians. Right now, companies are focusing on technology integration and process efficiencies and these tools are supporting the Indian ecosystem to become digitally-forward. The aspects such as remote collaboration for creative ideation and scripting will continue post-COVID and will alter the way the industry creates content forever.

Companies are placing an increasing amount of reliance on AI and ML to predict consumer behaviour in these uncertain times. If used judiciously, AI's impeccable strength has the potential to harness newer paradigms for the future. AI and data generation is helping businesses make informed decisions about the demographic they should be targeting and consumer experience they need to offer in order to be successful.

The Coronavirus pandemic is teaching us a new way of life and digital is the way to move ahead. Many brands are leveraging on this and are accelerating digital adoption to stay relevant to the newly evolved consumer base. Constant innovation and creativity is the way foray ahead.

Phil Pomford

Managing Director - International Markets, Merchant Solutions, FIS

Phil is the Managing Director - International Markets, Merchant Solutions, FIS. He leads Global eCom team across Asia Pacific which operates from three offices in Singapore, Japan and China. Phil has over 12 years of experience in financial services in payments, acquiring and credit card issuing with companies including Citi, Diners Club, American Express and Worldpay. He has a degree in Accounting and Law and is currently completing an MBA with Manchester Business School.
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