Despite stupendous growth numbers of Virtual Reality market in India and news about uptake in the adoption of VR based products such as head-mounted display among the end users (manufacturing, automotive, consumer electronics) – the VR market in India is seeing a tepid response. Once considered a disruptive force of technology -- pegged as the next big computing platform, the VR/AR market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 76 percent over the next five years.
Yet, the market outlook doesn’t look positive and the adoption of VR among big corporations is slow. Even though the Indian market is awash with PC attached VR headsets and fully wireless HMDs, from HTC Vive, Samsung, Google VR Headset and Microsoft, there are no concrete sales report for Indian market.
Indian VR market driven by notable startups
India has close to 70 startups in the VR space but only a handful of companies have raised seed capital from venture funds. According to report from Bangalore based industry watcher Growth Enabler, even the top 15 AR/VR startups have collectively raised under $3 million in funding. However, the market outlook is expected to turn around in the next few years. Priyank Kharge, Karnataka IT Minister says the government is promoting VR/AR startups and deploying pilots with various departments, besides providing funding and incubation opportunities. Earlier last year, Bangalore startup GridRaster raised $2 million in seed funding while there are a slew of emerging use cases developing. Bangalore based Chymera VR, founded in 2015 raised an undisclosed amount of funding from investors last year.
For example, Noida based VR startup SmartVix uses Oculus headset for creating virtual environment, the startup has delivered immersive, high quality campaigns for real estate players, Asian Paints. Meanwhile, Bangalore based Infurnia provides virtual environment development tools for interior designers. Earlier last year, PVR Cinemas teamed up with HP to launch Asia's first virtual reality lounge in Noida. The company plans to launch 10 VR lounges across the country. The VR pods are powered by HP Omen desktops or laptops with HTC Vive headsets providing the VR experience. Hyderabad based startup LoopReality offers fully immersive cycling experience that syncs with wearable devices.
Why has VR not taken off in India – understanding the growth barriers
Globally, the virtual reality market is buzzing and is about to become mainstream and is predicted to surpass US$ 40 Billion market by 2020, Orbis Research indicates. The major growth drivers include factors such as hardware advancement, increasing demand across gaming, healthcare, entertainment, education, sports sector and rising VC interest in AR/VR tech. Major tech giants cornering the virtual reality market are Sony, Facebook, Google, and Samsung, with over 50% market share. however, India is significantly lagging in this space, as compared to mature economies like China, US.
The biggest hurdle to the Indian market is the availability of hardware, LoopReality’s co-founder Jignesh Talasila observed, pointing out to the sluggish growth of VR start-ups in India.
Outlining the key reasons for slow adoption of VR in India
- Globally, hardware technology development company Oculus got a big push when Facebook acquired it for $2 billion in 2014. Famous for its Oculus Rift head mounted display, it led to a surge of startups across the globe and also sparked massive investor confidence. Soon after the market validation of VR/AR technology -- Sony released its own headset PlayStation VR in 2016. Currently, Sony & Facebook are two big contenders in VR headset market.
- While there are promising opportunities with a suite of use cases emerging across retail, real estate, healthcare and manufacturing domain, Indian VR market can get a boost from the enterprise segment which will be a proponent of the AR & VR market.
- Currently in India, big organizations are only at the early stages of AR & VR adoption, with many at the initial stage of proof of concept & ROI justification. Given the early stage of adoption, it is difficult to measure the precise value of ROI for businesses.
- There is a need for industry driven by use cases that focus on vertical solutions, process efficiency, customer engagement.
- While there are a number of startups that are assiduously building software capabilities for customers, the startups are reliant on hardware from global device manufacturers
- Given the lack of hardware components, Indian startups are unable to scale fast
- Another reason that contributes to the sluggish VR headset market is that we lack an ecosystem – new hardware platforms from PC manufacturers, 5G bandwidth and mobility, smartphones and display mediums to boost adoption of VR.
- Given that VR is most demanding in terms of bandwidth, the market will benefit from 5G rollout, expected by 2020. A Qualcomm report indicated that 4G adoption in India is expected to be 85%
- Scarce talent, lack of virtual reality content makers and the high cost of specialized software is another key reason
- Even though Indian consumers are aware of VR/AR technology, it still needs evangelizing, with more knowledge sharing platforms to share insights
Even the embattled Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that VR will be a hard-sell in Facebook’s 2016 earnings call. He observed that Oculus Rift would take another ten years to reach the mass adoption of iPhone. Also, the 2016 sales were far below the forecast – the 400,000 Oculus headsets sold globally were well below the 3.6 million forecasts of sales. The total sales accounted were 2 million with 800,000 PlayStation VR, 500,000 HTC Vive & 400,000 Oculus Rift sold in 2016.
Despite the sluggish growth, VR is here to stay and will become an important mode of consumption in the future. While use cases abound, as pointed out by Growth Enabler report, there is uncertainty about consumer adoption in India. A majority of startups are working on vertical focused solutions for specific industries such as real estate, hospitality, gaming and retail but the uptake is slow. Organizations are grappling with ways to measure ROI and are determining the right model for partnerships, pricing and content.
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Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.