Five minutes
with Nish
Bhutani on
network effects
& WeChat.
Nish Bhutani is CEO and Founder of Indiginus which helps business grow and evolve on the back of digital strategies, practices and technologies. Nish is a digital strategist, newspaper columnist and start-up investor. He has been working in the Internet space since 1996 in Seattle, San Francisco, London, and now Mumbai.

We spent time with Nish Bhutani, CEO and Founder of Indiginus, Mumbai to discuss the future of digital, the evolving world of digital platforms and how businesses can unlock the power of platforms for growth.

QUANTUM: How would you finish this sentence - the future of digital is……?

NISH: Pervasive. As AI develops and becomes more predictive and seamless, things will seem less artificial and the concept of interface will dissolve. Interfaces will be more natural so there won’t be a need for an interface – it will be pervasive.

QUANTUM: In that pervasive digital physical world where digital doesn’t exist as a concept isolated from existence, how will humans respond to that?

NISH: I think there are a lot of very deep pleasures that come from the direct contact that we’ve evolved with over millions of years, and those instincts don’t just go away because in the last 10 years a new technology has come along, so I think that is a lot of what we have to solve for. I am a big believer that one has to pay attention to what our core instincts are and design that way rather than imposing design against our instincts.

QUANTUM: Let’s talk about WeChat as an example. I first thought of it as a product or an experience, then as a utility. As it has evolved people have engaged with it in different ways. Is it an example of something becoming a platform?

NISH: Absolutely. A platform is where there are multi-faceted entities and these fundamentally do different activities that come together and interact with each other directly, without the explicit involvement of the platform. WeChat has on its platform, banks, all kinds of retail and service businesses; all who use the WeChat platform to communicate with and provide services for customers.
Creating and running a platform is far less expensive than it ever was. And when I say less expensive, that is an important point because digital platforms don’t require physical assets. The participants may own assets, may transact in assets, but the platform itself is extremely asset light, so the return on your investment is theoretically very high.

QUANTUM: Are these platforms more resilient to disruption over stand-alone businesses?

NISH: Definitely. Because there is a concept called ‘network effects’ - which means that the more participants in a network the more value there is to each individual participant in that network. If you look at WeChat – it is more valuable to consumers if more businesses are on it. It’s more valuable to businesses if more consumers are on it. It’s also more valuable to consumers if more consumers are on it because it’s also a chat application. There are all these feedback loops that make platforms very resilient to competition.

QUANTUM: But what happens when another WeChat comes up? WeChat today is so pervasive couldn’t another platform come and challenge that?

NISH: Yes, it could be that voice is the next platform and someone figures out a way to use Voice, whereas WeChat are still thinking of Voice as a feature on mobile: that’s when these big shifts happen.

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