Millions of India's internet users have never tried Google, Wikipedia or e-mail

26 February 2018 4 min. read
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While economically promising, the rapid spread of internet access in the Indian market is not remotely close to realising its true potential, primarily due to a lack of knowledge around internet applications. New research from RedSeer Consulting has revealed that more than half of India’s internet users don’t use Google, Wikipedia or e-mail. 

With more than 500 million internet users, India is home to the second largest internet market in the world, behind only China. Alongside the advent of cost-effective smart phones and rising economic prosperity, a major cause for the rapid expansion of India’s internet consumer base can be attributed to the rolling out of the Reliance Jio network, providing 4G connections at extremely low costs.

The Reliance Jio network added 100 million users itself in just seven months, and essentially encapsulated the sizeable rural population in India; a market that has been previously untapped. At the current rate of growth, India’s online users are expected to reach 850 million by as early as 2025.

Much has been made of this expanding digital market, in terms of its broader implications on other industries. The media and entertainment industry, for example, is expected to benefit from increased video consumption, as is the digital advertisement industry. The financial sector can now integrate within the digital sphere, and cloud-based applications will suddenly have a huge market; all in the next five years.

A gradual transition

However, it would appear that these predictions have missed a crucial step in the digital development of a country. The assumption in each of these forecasts is that increased access translates to increased usage. However, research from RedSeer Consulting, a research and consultancy firm from Bangalore, reveals that this process is likely to be a slow one.

Millions of India's internet users have never tried Google, Wikipedia or e-mail

As part of its research, the consulting firm has found that most internet-users in India have barely scratched the surface of the utilities that the web has to offer. The results are based on responses from more than 10,000 internet users, as well as industry leaders in the social media, mobile wallets, and food tech domains.

The report found that, of the 500 million users in India, the largest share (50%) use the internet to access social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook, but not much else. The most startling revelation of the report, however, is that only 200 million of the users make use of Google, Wikipedia or E-mail.

As explained by RedSeer consultant Vaibhav Arora: “(Social media) is the step people first get involved with since it’s more of a habitual thing. The difference between stage one and two is slight, but there is a section of people on Facebook and WhatsApp that doesn’t use e-mails.”

According to the firm, the reluctance to use such platforms to access content might be attributed to  a language-barrier. Content on the internet in any Indian language currently constitutes less than 0.01% of all content. This is a major problem as the number of users accesing Indian-language content stands at nearly 235 million, while English users collectively make up 175 million people. This, in turn, is because almost 70% of users in India trust content in their own language more than they do English content.

In terms of other online services, only 165 million users engage in online banking or payments, which the firm again attributes to a lack of trust, as a number of users fear online fraud. Meanwhile, the consumer market in India might be growing substantially, but this growth has not permeated to the online sphere, as only 10% (50 million) of users engage in online retail, travel or food delivery.