The Rising Connected Consumer in Rural India

The Rising Connected Consumer in Rural India

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The Rising Connected Consumer in Rural India

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  • Rural Connected Consumers: Who Are They?

    We expect the number of connected rural consumers to increase from about 120 million in 2015 to almost 315 million in 2020, a jump of almost 30% a year. Rural growth will significantly outpace growth in urban centers, and by 2020, rural users will make up 48% of all connected consumers in India.

    Rural Internet users are today almost exclusively male (98%), a different pattern from that of cities, where men dominate (79%) but women are also online in growing numbers (21%). More than 60% of rural users have been online for less than two years, which means most rural users are still relatively immature digitally, and their usage patterns can be expected to evolve as they gain experience.

    It is a mistake to regard rural users as a single set, however. Even at this relatively early stage in their evolution, they can be categorized into five distinct segments that are of varying interest to marketers. (See Exhibit 1.)


    Mature Users. The mature user is likely to be an 18- to 50-year-old (male) salaried worker or businessman from an affluent household. He has been online for three years or more, longer than people in any other segment. As a shopper, he is brand conscious, spends smartly, and actively trades up. His ownership of durable goods approaches that of urban dwellers. He accesses digital media daily and spends two to three hours online a day, primarily on a smartphone. There are some 160 million mature users (19% of the rural population), and Internet penetration is relatively high at 30%.

    Ambitious Users. Internet penetration in this segment, which comprises around 8% of rural users, or almost 70 million people, is estimated at 33%. The typical ambitious user is a young male college graduate. He belongs to a less affluent household than the mature user and aspires to move to a city for work. An active consumer of digital media, he spends two to three hours daily online using an Internet-enabled phone (or, in some instances, a smartphone). Strong growth is expected of this segment.

    Late Adopters. These are 30- to 50-year-old men who—though many own their own farms—are less affluent than their ambitious counterparts. They make up 15% of the rural population (125 million people), with 16% online penetration. Late adopters are savers and conservative consumers who trade up selectively and prefer value-for-money brands. They spend one to two hours a day online and primarily use entry-level smartphones. They access digital media four to five times a week.

    Next-Wave Users. While this segment accounts for around 36% of rural users (almost 300 million people), Internet penetration is only around 9%. The typical member is a young female homemaker from an affluent household. Though not a college graduate, she is the decision maker in her household and prefers branded products. Next-wave users have generally just started going online, and they spend only about 15 minutes per day on the Internet using an Internet-enabled phone. Despite these users’ limited digital experience and maturity, the size and relative affluence of the segment make it one of three high-potential rural growth segments (along with the ambitious and mature segments).

    Dark on the Internet. This segment, which makes up almost a quarter of the rural population, comprises older men and women (50 years and up) who do not work, are not well educated, and do not come from affluent households. They tend to have traditional values, and women in the segment do not play a role in family decision making. Household members share a basic phone. They have little interest in going online, and Internet penetration is only about 1%.