Report: India Set To Overtake U.S. To Become World’s Second Largest Internet Market

The number of Internet users in India is tipped to surpass 400 million by the end of this year, making it the second largest online population in the world behind only China, according to a new report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market research IMRB.

The report claims that the total number of Internet users in the country will reach 402 million by December, of which 351 million will go online daily. That first figure would see India surpass U.S on total web users, but leave it some way behind China which claims over 600 million.

Mobile has long been seen as the key driver of Internet access in emerging markets, and that’s very much the case in India.

The report found that, as of October 2015, India had 317 million Internet users, with 276 million — a majority 87 percent — accessing from a mobile devices. The report didn’t reveal how many are mobile-only Internet users, however. The number of mobile-based Internet users is expected to surge to 371 million by June next year, taking India’s online population to 462 million in total.

That’s a huge number, but it is still just scratching the surface of India’s colossal 1.2 billion population.

internet in india

Rural areas account for a minority of Internet users, but they are growing the fastest.

IAMAI and IMRB claimed that the top eight urban areas in India account for 31 percent of the country’s Internet users. That figure increased an impressive 50 percent over the past year but the number of web users from rural areas, which was at 108 million in October, grew by 77 percent over the same period. That figure is tipped to reach 147 million by June next year.

“With smartphones in India now available for under 5,000 INR,” IAMAI’s Nilotpal Chakravarti told TechCrunch in an interview. “We expect that the upsurge in overall Internet penetration will be driven by mobile.”

Internet access is surging in India, there’s no doubt about that. 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 then took three years for that figure to reach 300 million. But, the jump to 400 million was less than a year.

The growth in access in rural parts of the country is perhaps the most fascinating — and the most affected by mobile, too.

The report states that people aged between 18 and 30 represent 76 percent of rural Internet users, with smartphone-based users growing from 38 percent of rural users to a majority 60 percent.

Finally, one last tidbit to consider is the gender gap. Overall, males account for 71 percent of India’s Internet users, according to the report. Web usage among males is increasing 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.

There are precious few reputable statistics on Internet usage in India and other parts of Asia, despite the fact that things are changing fast, so this report is notable for that alone. The full version of the research is not available for free, but you can find an executive summary here.