India remains a fascinating case to look at when it comes to tech. While most developed nations had a linear technology growth curve, India remained mostly barred from affordable tech and the internet until the last decade. But a few years ago, India paced its internet penetration and gained access to a wide range of smartphones as well as fast and affordable internet. That, combined with the pandemic’s unexpected outcomes, makes 2021 a fantastic year to study India’s advancements in the tech realm.
The general notion peddled around in India is that those who prefer vernacular languages while using tech services come from the lower-income and less-educated strata of the country. Take a moment to reevaluate this thought because you will be surprised to see some myth-slaying facts about the users in India.
India’s internet usage in 2021
India is witnessing a massive boom in its internet users due to cheap internet and affordable smartphones. India added another 11.5% of internet users to the original number from the second quarter of 2020, propelling the number of internet users to 810 million in 2021’s second quarter. Adding such a phenomenal number of internet users every year sends a ripple effect on global figures. One in every five internet users in the world is an Indian — around 17% of the world’s total internet users reside here.
Next, the app downloads data from App Store and Google Play installs show growing app downloads as a direct consequence of the phenomenal addition of internet users. Indians continued their streak by downloading more than 7 billion apps in a quarter for four years in a row. Standing at second position globally, Indians downloaded a whopping 26.69 billion apps in 2021 and showed a 9% year-on-year increase from 2020. China still holds the crown for most app downloads globally and stands way beyond its competition at over 98 billion downloads in 2021.
An average Indian spent around 4.8 hours surfing through apps on their smartphones, and the country stood fourth in the global ranking of app usage. Indonesia, Brazil, and South Korea held the first three positions in the global rankings. India’s app usage grew by 37% from 2019 to 2021, which leads to an insight into India’s rapidly increasing internet penetration.
India ranks above most nations in monthly smartphone data consumption, standing at 14.6GB per month per user. India’s smartphone data consumption is 60% more than the global average of 9GB per month per user. The biggest reasons for this exceptionally high number are cheap tariff plans from ISPs and telcos and a unique model of data packs. Almost a decade ago, the ISPs charged for every kilobyte of data that the user consumed, but ISPs have now opted for a much more cost-effective model of daily data caps. Users now get a fixed data cap every day till the validity of their plans, which makes using high amounts of data more accessible. Additionally, India is expected to reach the whopping 40 GB per month mark in 2026, according to InMobi’s 2022 Marketing Handbook.
Indians showed remarkable consistency in using the internet daily; 9 out of 10 active internet users accessed the internet every day without a break! While Indians used the internet for various purposes, entertainment stood at the top of their list in 2021. Around 96% of internet users used the internet for entertainment-related activities like consuming shows, movies, and sports. The subsequent most prominent internet use in India was accessing social media and communication.
India had around 327 million rural internet users as of 2020. Although the number might seem high, it results from mere 32% internet penetration in rural India. The low internet penetration is quickly improving with the onset of affordable internet, but rural India has a long way to go. The low internet penetration and the fast face of increasing internet penetration also indicate that India’s growth spree in the tech realm is there to stay for a while.
Indians and Gaming
The pandemic continued to affect usage patterns in 2021, and games remained among the best stress releasers for a large population. Although male gamers have traditionally dominated the gaming scene in India, the pandemic changed things as a large population of female gamers joined the smartphone gaming community and started gaming as a stressbuster.
Indians downloaded a whopping 4.8 billion games in the first half of 2021 from the two biggest app stores, i.e., the App Store and the Google Play Store. This number is almost five times the global average of the number of game downloads. While competitive gaming has been on the rise, the hyper-casual gaming section has seen the most significant jump in growing numbers over the years, especially near the pandemic. The growth of hyper-casual gamers is the most critical indicator that several new Indian gamers prefer lightweight and exciting games rather than graphic intensive and heavy titles. Besides hyper-casual games, Action was another popular gaming genre among the masses.
According to InMobi’s Marketing Handbook 2022, the Indian gaming community consists of 43% female gamers; 49% of this female population is over the 34 years old mark, which later justifies the popularity of hyper-casual games. Around 49% of Indian female gamers confirmed that they started playing due to the pandemic.
Reiterating data.ai’s report on the top apps used by Indians in 2021, Ludo King held the crown for the most popular game in the first quarter of 2021. Candy Crush, Garena Free Fire, and Winzo were other popular games on the list. Notice how three of the four most popular games we just mentioned are from the hyper-casual gaming genre.
Coming to the distribution of these gamers around the country, Maharashtra tops the chart and has the most significant number of female gamers in India, with around 16.1% of total female Indian gamers. Delhi NCR tops the chart for having the country’s best female-to-male gamer ratio. Female gamers from West Bengal, on the other hand, spent the most time gaming at 67 minutes each day on average.
India’s fondness for Indic languages
The Indian constitution officially recognizes 22 languages, including Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, and more. Although 22 languages might seem too overwhelming for anyone reading this from a foreign perspective, the number of official languages is not even close to India’s on-ground reality. India has numerous languages and dialects that vary across the nation, and a significant chunk of users prefer using their native language in place of English wherever possible.
The Neo India report by ShareChat and GroupM defines Bharat as the urban population of India that prefers using their native languages while using smartphone applications. Note that the report carefully uses the word ‘prefer’ while defining Bharat; using Indic languages is not a consequence of not knowing English. Users that make up Bharat may or may not know English; whatever be the case, they prefer their native language over English.
As per the report, around 49% of urban Indian internet users prefer using Indic languages while interacting with technology. Additionally, 39% of all urban users prefer Indic languages while using social media applications. As you may expect, this number is considerably higher for non-metro users, standing at 53%. Around 37% of Bharatiyas — or the individuals making Bharat — use the internet for listening to music, and 36% use it for online shopping. Furthermore, 33% of Bhartiyas use it to stream videos and movies, and around 30% use the internet to consume news. As you may have noticed, the internet consumption stats for Bharat are not very different from non-Bharat as Bharat is not an isolated section of people, but it is the same Indians with similar internet habits but different language preferences.
Users who prefer Indic languages show more affinity for consuming news, food, health and fitness, and travel apps than English-speaking users in India. Moreover, Indic users have a slightly higher social media activity than India’s English-preferring user base. Following a similar trend to the entire nation, Bharat chose entertainment as their topmost internet use. Comedy and music remained the most popular entertainment genres for Bharat.
Although e-commerce has seen a massive boom after the onset of the pandemic, the Indic-preferring cadre has been one of the most prominent contributors to this growth in India. Around 46% of all Indic-preferring classes had made at least one online order in 2021. Please note that this was a whopping 24% year-on-year increase since 2020.
We would like to break a myth here! The Indic preferring class is often stereotyped as freeloaders that don’t want to pay for their tech services. This stereotype is far from reality as Bharat shows an equally phenomenal affinity to pay for services as the English-preferring class. Around 27% of Indic users spent on paid streaming services and apps and were willing to spend a part of their income if they like a service. In contrast, the English preferring class had a slight overhead, with 29% of users of the class willing to spend on tech services. This further strengthens the argument that Bharat is not a low-income group that uses Indic languages as they don’t know English. Instead, it is a part of India that just happens to like their native language more than English.
The reports from InMobi, ShareChat, and GroupM share a detailed picture of India’s interaction with tech. Entertainment, social media, and gaming remained the most popular internet uses for the Indian masses.
The pandemic greatly influenced many data points mentioned in these reports, such as the inclusion of more Indian female gamers than ever before. The increase in hyper-casual gaming and more gaming times are direct consequences of the pandemic-related restrictions.
Another fantastic aspect of these reports was the detailed analysis of Indians who prefer Indic languages. These reports do a phenomenal job of breaking stereotypes about the users who prefer to browse the internet and consume content in their vernacular, and showing that they have a very similar internet interaction as any other class in the country.
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