Digital in India is no longer an urban phenomenon. A recent study by Google and KPMG showcases how regional languages are playing an important role in redefining engagement on the digital platform. As per the report, majority of the Indian population prefers their digital content in regional languages and net surfers in vernacular languages have grown from 42 million in 2011 to 234 million in 2016.
The study titled, ‘Indian Languages: Defining India’s Internet’, reveals how Hindi internet users are slated to outnumber the English user base by 2021. The report predicts that Marathi and Bengali users will drive the volume growth, while Tamil, Kannada and Telugu speakers will be among the most digitally engaged people in the period between 2016 and 2021. As per the report, there were 234 million Indian language internet users compared to 175 million surfers who used English language. The report further highlights that regional language users will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18 per cent to reach 536 million in 2021, while English users are expected to grow at a CAGR of three per cent.
Google estimates that by 2021, content consumption in Hindi will be more than consumption in English. The study has found that adoption of Internet through local languages has been led by services such as messaging (169 mn), Digital Entertainment (167 mn), Social Media (115 mn) and Digital News (106 mn). Messaging will further grow to 396 mn, Digital Entertainment to 392 mn, Social Media to 301 mn, and Digital News to 284 mn, respectively by 2021.
The report also points out that Tamil and Kannada have a higher adoption propensity standing at 74%, while Hindi stands at 54%. Also, 88% of Indian language Internet users are more likely to respond to a digital advertisement in their vernacular language as compared to English. Meanwhile, the Indian language user base for digital classifieds will grow to 100 mn by 2021 and online government services, too, will add 131 mn Indian language users by 2021.
With the ongoing telecom tariff war, the digital adoption process has witnessed a steep rise. It needs mention that Reliance Jio has been a major boost behind this rapid pace of Internet adoption by people speaking all sorts of vernacular languages. Jio’s entry also forced other telecom companies to drop tariffs, further boosting this growth. Moreover, with the falling prices of smartphones, rising disposable incomes, improving digital literacy in rural India, and increasing language support and content across the Indian Internet ecosystem, one can see how adoption has shot up in the last year. The report further estimates that the trend of hyper-local content consumption is here to stay and India’s digital revolution will be majorly driven by regional content.