India's connected population to hit 40% in three years

DetailsRebecca Hawkes | 24 April 2015

Fast-rising digital penetration will see the number of India's Internet consumers reach around 550 million, or 40% of the population, in 2018, according to a report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The changing environment poses particular challenges for television companies who, suggests BCG, run the risk of losing most ground to online media if they don't act fast.

The analysts found consumers who have been online less than a year spend 30% of their time consuming media using digital devices, while those who have accumulated over a year's Internet experience consume 34% of their media online. Users who have been connected for more than five years now spend 43% of their time consuming media using digital devices.

"This shift comes primarily at the expense of television," said a statement from BCG.

"The question for publishers and electronic-media companies alike is one of opportunity," said Kanchan Samtani, a BCG partner and co-author of the report. "Can print and TV companies stake out digital territory with ancillary genres in the short term and core news genres in the long term so that they maintain loyalty and relevance with existing readers and viewers as well as attract new ones? Or, if they do not move quickly enough, will they cede audience to digital upstarts?"

The report notes key changes in the digital environment, including the increase in age of Internet users in India. "In 2013, 40% of users were 25 years old or older; in 2018, 54% will be 25 or older. Because older users have more disposable income, they will likely transact more online," said BCG.

In addition, more of India's user base is set to come from rural areas from 29% of users in 2013 to about half in 2018. The user base will include more women, rising from 25% of users in 2013 to a third of all users by 2018. "The increasing gender parity will have a major bearing on the Internet economy women control 44% of household spending in India," said a BCG statement.

Mobile Internet use is already a major factor in the Indian digital landscape: some 70% of rural users access the Internet from their mobile phones, having bypassed the PC altogether. The report forecasts mobile connections will increase from 60% to 70% in 2013 to 70%-80% in 2018.

As in the offline broadcasting sector, an increasing amount of vernacular content will become available online in India, to appeal to regional rural audiences, from 45% in 2013 to more than 60% in 2018.

Consumption is also becoming a shared experience for many Indians, with the report pointing to the increasing popularity of Google, Facebook and YouTube.

"Marketers have an opportunity to engage with consumers in new and powerful ways and to develop new offerings based on clearly identified user groups," said Nimisha Jain, a BCG partner and co-author of the report.