Mobile phones, have made steady inroads in rural India at a pace that desktops and broadband have never been able to. Portability, affordability and ease of use has made them the favorite device for Internet access in rural India.
Mobile: a growth driver for Internet in rural India
Mobile is largely responsible for the rapid proliferation of Internet in the country. However, it is also mobile which has been the biggest growth catalyst for Internet in rural areas. According to a recent i-Cube 2015 report, rural India had 31 million active internet users in 2012. Close to 4 million or 13% of these were mobile internet users.
However, in 2014, while the number of active Internet users in rural India went up to 58 million and the number of mobile internet users grew to an astounding 36 million taking a 62% share of the active Internet user base in rural India. As of June 2015, these users have further increased to 53 million making up for 65% of the active Internet user base in rural India which is pegged at 81 million.
What is rural India consuming on mobile
Mobile has opened up a new avenue of content access for these users and they are increasingly consuming content and staying connected with the world through these devices. In fact, over 43% of mobile users in rural areas use Internet for accessing entertainment-based content while 36% use it for communication. 32% users access Internet for social networking.
As their need for content matures, the medium will have to mature as well. Therefore we can also expect smartphones to see rapid adoption by this population as more users move towards a richer and more immersive content experience.
Need for content to go local
While the content consumption needs of rural mobile internet users are rapidly growing, their requirements are still largely going unmet, as there is big gap in terms of demand for content in local language and its availability. While app marketplaces and content providers have started releasing their offerings in local languages, there is still a lot of opportunity for creating apps that offer localized content and localized user experiences.
The user experience can be enhanced with mobile apps and sites that provide local content with intelligent translations. More apps can be created that engage users in rural India with content specific to their regions and languages. Estimates suggest that the number of local language content users on mobile has grown by 41% between 2014 and 2015 reaching 41 million, and this figure is only estimated to go northwards.
This means there is a big market opportunity waiting to be uncovered with apps and sites that provide a localized content experience. It will be interesting to see how the mobile ecosystem taps into this growing mobile internet user base in rural India.