Internet Use Expands Rapidly Both In Urban And Rural India
Mobile becomes the access point
The number of monthly Internet users in India increased 49 percent between October 2014 and October 2015, and was predicted to reach 426 million by June 2016, according to the Kantar IMRB I-Cube 2015 report.
Significantly, monthly Internet use grew 77 percent in rural India for the 12 months ending in October 2015, compared with a 38 percent growth rate in urban India. During the same period, the number of people living in rural India who accessed the Internet with mobile devices almost doubled, while mobile use in urban areas rose 65 percent.
- The penetration rate for monthly Internet users in urban India reached 51 percent, and mobile penetration rose to 48 percent.
- The penetration rate for monthly Internet users in rural India reached 12 percent, and mobile penetration more than doubled in a year to 9 percent. Also, the number of daily active Internet users in urban India grew 56 percent in a year, and by October 2015 almost 69 percent of urban users accessed the Internet every day.
Who Uses The Internet And Why
The typical Internet user in India is a young male. Internet use is 71 percent male and 29 percent female in India overall. In urban India, the gender distribution breaks down as 62 percent male and 38 percent female, with female use growing at a faster rate. In rural India, the distribution breaks down 88 percent male and 12 percent female, and male Internet use continues to grow faster.
College students are India’s largest Internet-engaged demographic group, comprising almost a third of monthly- active users. Among female Internet users, non-working women make up the fastest-growing demographic group, growing 97 percent in a year.
Across India, monthly active Internet users say they go online primarily for three activities: communication, social networking, and entertainment. These activities differ in relative importance, however, between urban and rural India. In urban India, 71 percent of monthly active Internet users say that communication is the main purpose for using their mobile phone. In rural India, entertainment is the main purpose for 44 percent of Internet users, and only 37 percent said that communication is the most important.
Rural Indians rank entertainment high because they view it selectively, since rural Indians are not online all the time. Rather, they turn their Internet connection on and off intermittently to conserve power, as electricity is not always readily available. They also use their data carefully to save money.
Preferred Access Points
Along with differences in why urban and rural Indians use the Internet, there are differences in where urban and rural Indians are most likely to access the Internet and with what device.
For the 89 percent of urban monthly- active Internet users who access the Internet at home, 80 percent say that home is the main point of access. And 94 percent of urban Internet users access the Internet with a mobile phone compared with 64 percent that use a desktop or laptop.
In rural India, home is the main location for Internet access for only 23 percent of Internet users. Around 60 percent of rural Internet users access the Internet with a mobile phone. The key change in rural Internet access is the decline in the use of government-run community service centers (CSCs). Only 6 percent of rural Internet users access the Internet from CSCs, compared with 26 percent a year ago.
Finally, Indians who do not yet access the Internet in urban India give a variety of reasons for their reluctance, which can be summarized as a lack of need, means, or knowledge. Over a fifth of non-users of the Internet in urban India said they would be willing to access the Internet over the next year, and 67 percent of this group said they expected to gain access with a mobile phone.
The growth in Internet use, especially in rural areas, and the rapid shift to mobile, indicates that a comprehensive digital strategy is fundamental for companies that want to reach Indian consumers, particularly those living in small towns and villages.