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Guest Article: The Pentaprism of Internet Usage in India

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Guest Article: The Pentaprism of Internet Usage in India

The medium of Internet has been growing in India by quite a substantial measure. The growth, however, has received thrust from certain specific usage behaviour witnessed among Internet users in India. With the use of IMRB International’s Web Audience Measurement (WAM) platform, there are 5 major categories of such usage that emerged: Email, Social Networking, Finance, Online Travel and Cricket. In addition, the peak time periods of these categories are vastly different.

There are nearly 56 Mn active Internet users who are aged 15 years and above in urban cities of India. The data from WAM reveals that Email charts itself highest in terms of Internet usage by the active Internet Users (15 years and above). Social networking ranks second with close to 43 million people using various networking sites in the month (April -11). Activities like Finance, Online Travel and Cricket comparatively ranked a distant 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively.

With a total of about 51 million users in a month, ‘Email’ most certainly has penetrated with fairly deep roots. Day-in and Day-out ‘Emails’ have been adopted in large numbers by varied set of individuals – for both professional and personal need. Universally accepted as one of the fastest modes of communication, Email doesn’t find it difficult to penetrate into the remotest internet enabled places in India. Its utility has been realized amongst all Socio-Economic Classes. SEC A individuals use emailing services the most with as many as 17.1 mn users. However, SEC A usage is overpowered by the consolidated usage SEC CDE together with close to 17.7 mn users.


Usage of emailing services approaches its peak during 12 noon to 1 pm. Close to 27.2 Million (Out of 51 Mn) users visited Email sites during this peak hour in the month of April 2011. Some of the top sites accessed during the month included (rank-wise) Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Rediff Mail and Hotmail. While these top channels portray nearly sequential reach, a look at their WRPs (Web Rating Points) for the peak times clearly distinguish their effectiveness on campaigns. Gmail scores significantly higher than Yahoo! Mail thereby clearly distancing itself from the competition. 

Social Networking

Trailing ‘Emails’ by a mere 8 million in reach, ‘Social Networks’ continue to bring in dynamism to the internet landscape of India. Individuals of all ages have been using Social Networks - for finding old friends or keeping in touch with the existing ones. The total reach of 43 million is mainly driven by a similar composition of Socio-economic classes to that of ‘Emails’. Heavy penetration (as much as 15 mn) from SEC CDE is also noted in this genre. Such strong SEC composition in a comparatively newer activity like Social Networking assists opening up the Internet further as an advertising vehicle for lower classes and remotest areas in the country.

Facebook, Orkut, Ibibo and Linkedin are the leading websites in the genre. On a usual day, Social Networking websites are most used between 2 to 3 pm in the afternoon, reaching a mass of close to 22.5 million people. During these peak hours the effectiveness of Facebook as an advertising channel is clearly evident as it continues to engage its subscribers with games and other applications like no other.


Finance websites grow in importance to accumulate information and knowledge for both online and offline investing. Today these portals have become one of the most effective tools used by investors, financial advisors and corporate enterprises. With the increasing use of the Internet in every field, it is not surprising that the overall reach of this genre is ~ 22.4 million users in the month (almost 50% of the entire internet universe). Leading the SEC chart is the SEC A group, which constitutes ~38.39% (8.6 million) of the users. Not far behind are the SEC B and SEC CDE groups comprising of ~31.25% (7 million) and ~ 30.35% (6.8 million) users respectively.

As depicted in the Finance dashboard, the peak usage of finance websites usually occurs between 4 pm and 5 pm, accessed by about 7 million users. MoneyControl, Yahoo! Finance, Rediff Money and BSE India are the leaders in this genre comprising of 3.2 million, 2.5 million, 2 million and 1.3 million users respectively. Although, MoneyControl is ahead of Rediff Money by ~ 1.2 million users, interestingly their performances match their equation WRP-wise too. In the case of Yahoo Finance and BSE occupying second and fourth position with regards to the number of users, the latter is ahead of the former by a meager thousand point in WRPs.

Online Travel

The ease and convenience offered by Online Travel websites, makes them the next big hit after Emails, Social Networking and Finance categories. This genre boasts of ~ 20 million users per month. On further segmentation, SEC A group is once again found to be the leader with ~7.3 million users. Giving a tough competition to class A, SEC CDE and SEC B groups, comprise of ~6.8 million and ~5.9 million users respectively.

IRCTC, MakeMyTrip, Indian Rail, and Yatra are the most visited online travel portals with 9.1 million, 8.4 million, 8.3 million and 4.3 million users correspondingly. More than 5.5 Mn users access these websites between 11am and 12pm, in spite of their 24x7 availability. IRCTC bags the spotlight again with the highest Web Rating Points (WRPs) at 16.9, followed by Indian Rail at 8.7 points. Lagging far behind in terms of WRPs are and at 1.8 and 3.5.



At 14.5 million users per month, the reach of Cricket websites is by far the smallest in comparison to all the above mentioned genres. However, it is interesting to observe how this reach varies with regards to the SEC Segmentation, WRPs, different online portals, and time frames. Apparently, a difference of a mere 0.1 million users is observed with regards to SEC B and SEC CDE groups in this category. At 5.3 million, SEC A group is the leader among the internet savvy cricket crazy audience.

Topping the list among the online portals for ‘Cricket’ are Yahoo! Cricket and Cricinfo with 7.8 million and 5.2 million users. In comparison to Yahoo Cricket, IPL – IndiaTimes and ESPN Star, lag far behind with 3.4 million and 2.5 million users. As far as the time segmentuation is concerned, about 5.2 million users access the online portals to gather information on cricket between 5 and 6pm. Further interpretation of the ‘Cricket’ dashboard clearly portrays Yahoo! Cricket to be the leader with 11.4 WRPs. Following it are Cricinfo, IPL – India Times and ESPN Star with 10.3, 5.9, and 5.1 WRPs respectively, thus bagging the second, third and fourth slot.


About WAM (Web Audience Measurement)

WAM is an offering from IMRB International which provides publishers, planners and advertisers a common platform to identify trends in Internet usage in India as well as plan for better media planning. The panel based approach adopted by this system has been made possible due to a unique metering technology custom built for Indian market. The meter is capable of capturing internet usage data from multiple machines and still attribute to the same panelist. Further, the meter allows the flexibility of capturing only the panel member’s data in case the machine is used by multiple users. The meter can capture data from multiple browsers (all versions of IE, all versions of Chrome, Firefox, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk and MSN Messenger). The data reporting is being done through the well established Media Xpress tool customized for the Internet market. The reporting tool called Web Xpress allows pre and post media planning, duplication analysis and profiling apart from the usual trending tools. The tool is also capable of reporting at day level and at day-part level across flexible demographic groups.

About IMRB International

Established in 1971, IMRB International is a pioneer in market research. IMRB is a member of the Kantar Group, part of the WPP company. Kantar is one of the world’s largest consumer insight networks. IMRB's footprint extends across 26 offices in 14 countries – Algeria, Australia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Netherland, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, South Korea, UAE and United Kingdom. With over 1200 full time staff, IMRB provides high quality conceptualisation, strategic thinking, execution and interpretation skills. IMRB International is the only research company in India that offers such a wide range of research based services to its clients. IMRB International's specialized areas includes consumer market research both quantitative and qualitative, industrial market research, business to business market research, social and rural market research, media research, retail research, and consumer panels.

(Tarun Abhichandani is Group Business Director, IMRB International | eTech Group.)

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