A recent report on Indian internet users by JuxtConsult gives a perspective on which way the Internet is headed in India. The report is useful for technology products and consumer goods companies targeting the Indian consuming class as internet usage patterns give strong pointers towards consumer behavior for new technology products and services.
This study shows growth of internet usage in both ‘spread’ and ‘depth’ in India with 22% new users added to the pie. The study estimates the current population of urban online Indians who use the internet regularly at around 22 million. 1 out of every 2 computer users is logging onto the net implying that internet availability is a critical factor to PC penetration. The good news is that 53% of the internet connections now are broadband (compared to about 23% a couple of years ago). This will significantly impact areas such as gaming, video/music downloads and other heavy internet activities.
Internet is no longer an elite, big city phenomenon. More than 50% of the internet users are from outside the big 8 metropolitan cities, and 60% are from middle to lower brackets of socio-economic classes.
Cyber cafes continue to be extremely popular for internet access. 46% of regular net users access the net (non-exclusively) from a cyber café. In comparison, 40% access the internet from homes. The popularity of cyber cafes is interesting to study because it has a direct impact on PC ownership at home. With cyber cafes cropping up in every nook and corner, why should one own a PC when one can simply walk across to a cyber café at a fraction of a cost? Moreover, the popularity of cyber café proves Indians’ affinity to ‘pay-as-you-go’ model. Even the cell phone boom (3 million new cell phone subscribers every month) was born out of attractive ‘pay-as-you-go’ schemes by cell phone companies.
Using the internet to transact is severely limited by credit card penetration in India. The study shows that only 1 in 4 online Indians possesses a credit card, however almost 1 in 2 owns a debit card.
Online shopping is growing primarily due to the popularity of online ticketing. 33% of the online buyers have bought a train ticket in the last 3 months, and 22% have bought an airline ticket during the same period. Till a few years ago, buying a train ticket meant standing for hours in a long queue in a very inhospitable environment. But with Indian Railways’ online ticketing service, buying train tickets is easier than pronouncing Vengirapu Venkata Sai Laxman. Similarly, low cost air fares available from various travel portals have revolutionized inland travel in India. This is one example of how good content can impact internet and PC penetration in a market.
The time is now ripe for content providers to get cracking on local language content. Only 60% of the regular online Indians have English as the preferred language of reading. Further, 42% of the regular online Indians are already visiting language websites. Drawing a parallel from the largest internet market China, Chinese users have a wide array of local language content and computing devices to choose from unlike their Indian counterparts.
Internet, in India, continues to be mainly a communication medium. Email is by far the most popular, however, blogging is a fast emerging phenomenon. According to the study, 85% of the regular online Indians say that they check ‘blogs’. The sheer interactivity, informality and democracy of blogging seem to have captured the net users’ attention and interest.
Despite this amazing growth story, the question that remains to be answered is why, in a country with 180 million cell phone users, 400 million TV viewers, the number of internet users is still below 25 million?
Anupam Mukerji • Bangalore, India • www.mmi-india.com