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Internet in India at crossroads

05-August-2005
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Internet in India at crossroads

In its decade long presence in India, Internet usage has evolved more in ‘depth’ than in ‘spread’. That is, its impact and growth is being driven through ‘increased usage’ by existing users rather than assimilation of newer ones. Eighty per cent of urban net users have been wired for more than three years now while only 8 per cent joined the bandwagon less than a year ago.

These and other key insights have emerged out of one of the largest online surveys conducted by JuxtConsult in April 2005 among Internet users in India.

The survey sampled more than 30,000 users with the aim to unravel the identity of the net user along with his lifestyle choices. To estimate the penetration of Internet among urban Indians, a telephonic survey spread across 10 cities with over 3,000 participants was also conducted.

Nine per cent urban Indians wired

The study finds that around 17.5 million urban Indians are using the Internet with certain consistency. With another 5.2 million using it sparingly, its upper limit is around 23 million urban users at present. This puts the penetration of Internet among urban Indians at around 9 per cent. Assuming marginal usage in rural areas, the national penetration level stands at a potential 2 per cent.

7.5 million almost always connected

In terms of ‘depth’ of usage, almost a third of urban Internet users are heavy users with log time of more than three hours every day. Interestingly, one out of every three heavy Internet users is connected ‘throughout the day’ and a third of those log in at least five times a day. Clearly, urban India is witnessing the emergence of the ‘netoholic’.

The Internet user is misinterpreted

The profile of a characteristic net user is exceedingly inconsistent with the projected notion that he/she is a ‘white collared professional’. The professional most likely does not represent more than the ‘tip’ of the iceberg of the urban Indian net users.

The typical net user is more the average person. However, he does represent a ‘reasonably’ decent purchasing power. Every three out of four net users own an automobile of some kind and every second net user has a credit card.

‘Infrastructure pangs’ and ‘disconnect with personal lives’ holding up usage

To grow exponentially in urban India, Internet would need to break two major barriers. One is the ‘real’ barrier of solving technical issues related to speed and connectivity. This is the biggest reason for users not spending more time online.

The second is the ‘perceptual’ barrier of creating a more ‘persuasive’ relevance of Internet in people’s overall lives rather than it being restricted to the work domain. This poses a challenge for marketers who need to convert net users into net consumers.

This study by JuxtConsult, a joint initiative of Indicus Analytics and Webchutney, aims to help organisations to understand and harness the power of the Internet and new media to exploit their business potential.

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