At 780 million, India is home to the second-largest internet user base in the world, which is more than 2X of the US population. With the accelerated growth of internet and smartphone adoption, India is expected to surpass 1 billion internet users by 2030, according to a recent report by Redseer Strategy Consultants.
An average Indian spends 7.3 hours per day on their smartphone, one of the highest in the world. The time spent is across online messaging, social media, YouTube streaming, OTT content and short form video. Cheaper data costs and affordable smartphones (starting at US$60) have been the fundamental drivers of increasing online time. This sets the stage for high digital opportunities for consumer internet players.
Redseer Strategy Consultants buckets internet users into three cohorts – explorers, transactors and mature users. Given that the internet users’ growth has exploded over the last 3-4 years, a large number of them (400-450 Mn) are in the early phase of digital life – they are exploring digital services (social, media, content, gaming and OTT). As the user builds comfort using the digital services and trusts them, they graduate from one cohort to another.
With the increasing digital India push and explosive growth of UPI transactions, internet users are becoming comfortable paying online on digital platforms.
“India has 350 million online transactors across e-commerce, shopping, travel and hospitality, and OTT. We estimate there are 40-45 million mature users; these are the users who spend a considerable share of their wallet online (more than 50 percent). We expect online transactors to become 2X by 2030, with mature users being the faster-growing cohort. We also estimate that these mature users would account for $400 billion online spending by 2030,” says Mukesh Kumar, engagement manager, Redseer Strategy Consultants.
Rise of users from Tier 2+ cities
Tier-2 and beyond - this is where most of the action is. Most internet users come from product commerce, OTT video platforms, short form, gaming, and OTT audio platforms. Most of the users across e-tailing and gaming come from tier 2+ cities. There is a new trend in content consumption where the time spent on user-generated content is 2X of platform-generated content.
But who serves these tier 2+ digital users? “Leading global apps are more targeted to metro and tier-1 users (mostly English-speaking users); this is where new-age domestic players have emerged and are solving for the needs of smaller cities. Social commerce, for example, has built trust amongst small city users with its reseller model. They have also been a platform where users shop online for the first time. On the other hand, vernacular and regional content focused platforms have been able to serve the needs of Tier-2+ users in their digital content consumption. As a result, we have seen leading app focusing on Tier-2+ users see maximum growth in users over the last 1-2 years,” adds Kumar.
Gaming is one of the fastest-growing markets
Growth in UPI payments and the comfort of paying online have led to 110 million paid online gamers in India, second only to e-commerce. Gaming is adding 2 million paid users per month. Every second internet user is a gamer in India, and every third transacting user in India is a paid gamer. Gaming has almost 450 million users in 2022, and the market will see a 33 percent rise in paid gamers by 2026. These users come from across India and pay for real money games like Rummy, Poker or make in-app purchases on casual/core games.
Digital media plays a key role in customer decision-making criteria
For the first time, the number of eyeballs reached by digital platforms is expected to surpass traditional media by 2025. Digital ads account for 53 percent of the total ads spent in India in 2022. Online shoppers have started to depend on digital channels such as social media, e-commerce marketplaces or general online searches for decision-making. Therefore, brands and retailers can’t ignore digital media channels in their advertisements and brand campaigns.