According to I- Cube Study in association with IAMAI India as on September 2008 has 45 million active internet users of whom urban users continue to dominate contributing to 42 million users.
Over the years the internet penetration has seen an impressive growth in India with the increase in broadband connectivity however the large part of growth is still with urban India thereby widening the gap between urban and rural India.
Currently with 45 million users, internet is still a niche medium and only when it crosses the100 million mark can it truly be called a mass medium. While English users and content still dominate the internet space the real growth infact will be seen with the advent of Indian language content and this growth could well be fuelled with mobile particularly after 3G launch in India. Take for instance the UK market which has 77 per cent penetration thus not only making it a mass medium but also the top most medium followed by television and print even the United States has a 13 per cent penetration compared to India which is still a 3- 4 per cent of market share.
So, is the rise of Indian language content a reality in India and what is holding this segment back? exchange4media speaks to industry players and finds out more.
What language content means for the Internet?
English users still reign the internet space in terms of content- email and search and if we want internet as a medium to grow it would require the growth of local or regional language content.
Amar Deep Singh, Co-Founder and Vice President - Business Development, Interactive Avenues observed, “Indian content is available on the internet in the form of news- all your newspapers sites in which ever language publish their content on the internet but, the primary drivers for usage of internet in India are email, search etc therefore until we have people adopting to Indian language for basic use of computer we will not see growth but, when that does happens which is bound to happen soon, the internet which is around 50 million active users will grow into 100 million plus. There are efforts from various people involved in the eco system to making it available in Indian language.”
Rishi Khiani, COO, Web18 stated, “For Indian language content to take off we will have to look at mobile phones which would help one reach out to the villages. Connectivity will always be an issue so, I believe that content needs to be reached out in a mobile format which is affordable and has the options of language content however we still don’t have rural audience who actually use local content and that is why we do not have too many content creators when it comes to textual content but, I believe all that is going to change.”
According to Pankaj Jain, President and COO Webdunia, “Indian language content users are indeed going to over take the English users some day; this is anyway going to happen. The combined PVs for all Indian languages are any way growing rapidly. This essentially means better revenues coming to languages and the penetration going deeper.”
Jain pointed out, “Internet Penetration – It is still not easily available and accessible. The moment it comes free with telephone connection, it is going to revolutionise the usage of Indian languages on net. PC Prices – is yet another challenge. These are still not very affordable. To connect with masses, these must come down. A good PC should be available within Rs. 10 K.”
Singh noted, “Internet still remains an urban phenomenon with the advent of language internet you will see the internet become an overall phenomenon and will not remain urban phenomenon alone. We’ve been hearing of broadband taking off in a big way which has not yet happened but, it will happen in the next two years so players like MTNL, BSNL, Reliance and TATA will take broadband will be pushed heavily by them and once you see broadband penetration increase we will see the growth of the medium itself.”
Khiani stated, “Internet usage in China or Russia has leapfrogged India and no doubt about that and one of the reasons being the use of local language content. In India there are still many who do not have open access to PC but, with a lot of cheaper options available and with content available on ones handsets we would see more users accessing the internet and I believe the next wave will come from smaller towns and villages thus creating more language content.”
“3G rollout will bring in more rich media content to the market however the whole utilisation of 3G I believe is currently is in sync with certain high end handsets and that needs to change and needs to be applicable to the common man” he added.
The way forward
Singh of Interactive Avenues said, “Internet access rates needs to drop and more contents needs to be available so you have to drive all kinds of users to the internet. Computer costs needs to be dropped as well as access rates and mobile as a devise will help the language content to grow.”
Khiani of Web 18 said, “Connectivity is the largest issue besides that there needs to be a devise which is easily accessible. There is also a need for a hub which would provide easy access to content thereby increasing the usage.”
Jain of Webdunia was of the opinion that, “More efforts on the awareness front are required. People are still not aware as to how easy it is to use the net in Indian languages and it is comfortable and convenient.”
Mobile which is more affordable and handy is also highly penetrated device in the country, it also has the options of local language content and with the 3G India rollout it will only be an additional boost to the internet space. Industry believes that once 3G is rolled out not everyone will use a PC. Indian language content has indeed huge growth potential and its growth will only add additional revenues into this market.