Vernacular: The next big driver for Indian digital industry

Guest Column: Vivek Pandey, VP- Revenue Strategy & Analytics, Times Internet, highlights that vernacular digital ads are expected to bring higher engagement, more recall and better ROI

e4m by Vivek Pandey
Updated: Jan 20, 2021 3:38 PM
Vivek Pandey

India’s digital penetration is estimated at 40.6% and India still has the second largest digital population on this planet. This very fact makes India very important for the next decade of digital growth. The hint for the source of this growth can be seen from the fact that in May 2020, Rural India had 2 million more active internet users than Urban India. Hence, the monopoly of urban English speaking audiences is challenged by rural areas' multilingual and culturally diverse populations.

Indian digital population has always been mobile first, a trend which is expected to hold strong in the future. Moreover, the smartphone revolution and declining rates for data plans in the country has rapidly increased mobile internet users. One significant result is that a considerable population of rural India would directly use the internet on mobile phones.

The above facts resonate that the digital ad industry will follow the lead indicated by the consumption patterns. According to a Google KPMG report, 70% Indians find local language digital content more reliable. Furthermore, 88% Indian language internet users are more likely to respond to a digital advertisement in their local language as compared to English. These facts represent the time is right for content developers and marketers to recognise the benefits of vernacular digital ads because it is expected to bring higher engagement, more recall and better ROI.

However, as marketers clutter in the near future for top of the mind space of digital rural audiences expertise for rural mass communication especially in culturally diverse India would come in handy. Marketers should seek to partner with trusted and premium vernacular content providers to establish brand awareness and reach in a short period of time.

With time, it would become evident that marketers partnering with content businesses that enjoy established brands, extensive reach, and have expertise in understanding culturally diverse rural India will flourish and pioneer vernacular digital marketing efforts. In the recent past, international brands have recognized this particular need and tried to encash the relatively white space for better results.

Times Internet’s vernacular properties together reached over one-third of India’s digital population in the last six months alone. Moreover, the wide range of language properties including Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada and Malayalam, among others provides marketers a one-stop shop for rural reach coupled with cultural intelligence through their dominant vernacular brands.

Deciding on the right format of the digital media would be equally important as one would need to keep in mind that the digital transformational journey of rural consumers would be faster than that of the urban consumers. E.g. 90% of all video consumption happens in local languages which provides a considerable platform for vernacular digital advertising to take off.

Moreover, AI and ML algorithms of digital advertising according to cultural nuances would make the digital messaging more relevant, scalable and cost effective. However, the growth of vernacular digital advertising would need to be adequately supported by vernacular focused content management services, user-generated content and regional influencer marketing services.

Industries such as BFSI and e-commerce, among others are pioneers of digital marketing and are expected to take advantage of the vernacular growth to solve their problem of engagement and reach for rural India. However, as interesting times in the digital marketing space lie ahead of us we should be ready for surprises too.

 Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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