According to a new report from international market research firm IMRB and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMA), the number of internet users in India is poised to reach 402 million by the end of 2015. This would make India the second largest internet market, way behind China’s 600 million, but ahead of the 266 million users in the United States.
Mobile has long been seen as the key driver of internet access in emerging markets, and that is very much the case in India. The report found that, as of October 2015, India had 317 million internet users, with 276 million, or a little over 87 percent, accessing from mobile devices.
The report did not reveal the number of those connecting only through their mobiles. However, with the number of mobile-based internet users expected to surge to 371 million by mid-2016, India’s online population is projected to reach 462 million. This is no doubt a huge number, but it only scratches the surface of India’s colossal 1.2 billion population.
Many among this huge population live in rural areas where internet usage currently accounts for only a small share of total internet users. But this is changing rapidly; according to the IMRB –IAMA report, the top eight urban areas in India accounted for 31 percent of the country’s internet users. While this figure increased an impressive 50 percent over the past year, the number of web users from rural areas grew by 77 percent during the same period to reach 108 million users. This figure is tipped to reach 147 million internet users by June next year, much of it driven by mobile usage.
Other statistics from the report show that while it took more than ten years for the total number of people with web access in India to move from 10 million to 100 million, it took only three years for that figure to reach 300 million and the jump to cross 400 million was achieved in less than a year.
Another tidbit from the report is that web usage among males increased at a rate of 50 percent, versus 46 percent for women. In rural areas, the growth in internet access is higher among men (79 percent) than women (61 percent), but in urban areas, a higher ratio of women are coming online than men, 43 percent and 34 percent respectively.