Ideas for Indian startups

One of the oft asked questions is — How do I get my startup idea ?

While many of the startups are founded by entrepreneurs to solve problems they personally run into, startup ‘ideas’ may not come so obviously to others. So, while some have already found that idea, some are still suffering from idea overload and several others have no clue on how to seek out ideas.

So, how do you seek out ideas ?  Specifically, how do you seek out startup ideas for the Indian market ?

Why do I specifically say the ‘Indian market’ ? Well, because the Indian online market poses some unique challenges.

First, in terms of size.

The Indian online audience is really small. Internet and more specifically broadband adoption is still in its infancy. Majority of the Internet usage happens from cyber cafes and workplace. Not to mention broadband adoption is skewed mainly across the more IT savvy urban areas.

Second in terms of the Indian online usage patterns.

Bollywood, news, stocks, cricket, matrimony, jobs, astrology still dominate the online Indian usage pattern. Indians are heavy consumers of content but dont fare well at content generation. Anything outside of the above verticals risks borderline into a niche category.

Taking into account the above two factors, seeking out ideas to the Indian Internet market is quite different than seeking out ideas for the US market. Something that has been successful in US may not work in the Indian market without taking into account the above two constraints that are unique to the Indian market.

So, how can you find the startup ‘idea’  for Indian market ?

To find your startup idea, you need to build something that people want. And for that you need to know their intent. Search engines are one way of telling intent – you can tell a user’s intent by knowing what info they are searching for (Google’s Adsense is built on the same premise).

So, how can you tell what people are searching for ?

It’s here that Google’s Insights for Search comes into play. Though it doesnt get as much press coverage as some of the other Google products, its one of the most useful and powerful products that Google provides. A market researcher’s dream.  For a market researcher, Google’s Insight into Search is what Disneyland is to a kid.

If you arent familiar with the product, I’d strongly suggest you really get well acquainted with it.

Its basically Google Trends on steroids, and Google describes it as:

With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames.

Using Google Insights for Search, you can basically analyze data on what content people are searching for. You can then dissect the data based on location, time ranges etc.

I’m going to illustrate how you can use Google Insights for Search with a simple example.

Lets say I’m interested in a startup idea related to an iPhone application for Indian users. To begin with, I need to know if there’s a viable market related to iPhone apps in India. Are Indians familiar with iPhone apps ? If so, what info do they seek out on Google related to iPhone and iPhone applications ?

Here’s a quick capture from Google Insights, which shows that search for ‘iPhone’ and related terms has grown by more than 5000% in the last 5 years.


If you look at the normalized search totals for iPhone, it ranks at 20 — which indicates that the number of iPhone related searches was pretty less over the past 5 years (obviously — duh ! iPhone was launched couple of years back, so you wouldnt expect a lot of search volume in the last 5 years).

Next, lets look at iPhone related searches over the past 1 year.

You’ll now see that the normalized search volume ranks at 34, which is decent but still not spectacular.

Next, lets look for searches related to ‘iPhone applications’. The normalized search queries for ‘iPhone applications’ for the past 1 year in India ranks at 63, which is quite surprising – considering that the normalized search results for iPhone itself was ranked lower. Probably the only reason why that could happen is that there are lesser people searching for iPhone in India. However, existing iPhone owners are actively searching for iPhone applications. Either that or offshore software development companies are looking for info related to iPhone application development to cater to their clients.

Additionally, when you look at the regional interest for iPhone applications in India, you see the following:


Only people from the above states were looking for iPhone applications and I wont be surprised if majority of the iPhone owners reside in the above states (considering that these states are more tech savvy and have a larger early adopter crowd). Or the other assumption also applies – majority of the IT software companies are located in these states and they contributed to the higher search volume for ‘iPhone applications’.

Moving on, when you look at the related search terms for ‘iPhone applications’, you see that ‘free iPhone applications’ ranks pretty high as well.

So, now that we’ve done a really rudimentary market research, what does the above information tell us ?

  • The market for iPhone applications in India is small, undoubtedly a very niche category.
  • There is an interest in iPhone applications, but this search volume / interest is skewed because:
    • These searches might be originating from Indian software development companies catering to project from western clients Or
    • These searches originated from actual iPhone owners, which might indicate that iPhone owners are in love with their iPhone. But this still limits the actual market size, since as per our first bullet, the interest in iPhone is small in India. In essence, a small but really rabid user base
  • Edit – forgot to add this bullet earlier: Of the interest in iPhone applications, the search volume for free apps ranks higher. So, probably a paid iPhone app might have some challenges in adoption

You can then use this information to decide whether you really want to proceed with your iPhone app idea or think about an alternative.

The goal of the illustration above was simply to show how you can use Google Insights effectively. By no means am I implying that you should or shouldnt venture into iPhone app development.

Google Insights is a powerful tool and I think you should use it more often and become a power user – not just for seeking out ideas and doing market research. It is also immensely useful for marketing, brand research, competitor analysis and SEO magic.  Even startups that have already launched should harness its power to get additional insight into market trends.

If you have any additional ideas or tips on using Google Insights more effectively, do share !!

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  1. thats an awesome post!..useful…xpecting more posts like this…of the same quality

  2. You seem to have moved to a new plane altogether over the last one month…

    Keep going…

    - Ganesh

  3. Thanks guys..I’m glad you liked it. As time permits I’ll try to write more of such posts.

  4. Echoing what the others have said. An excellent article. Kudos!

  5. You just made my day… Excellent article

  6. Hi Pranav,

    This article is very good…..I have checked my idea using google insights & found that interest in my field increased in recent times


  7. Hi,
    This is one of the best article i’ve read in the recent times.


  8. Nice Article Pranav..! You picked up my fav topic “iPhone Apps” :)

  9. Really helpful article for people venturing into new ideas.

  10. Excellent article pranav.

  11. thats a really gud post…need more posts like this..

  12. good article. the resources of this blog are goood

  13. awesome post … gives ‘insight; into new stuff :P

  14. nice work please spread the truth about the Olympic 2012 false-flag terror attacks (huge LIES like 9/11 and 7/7) due to take place in london

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