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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  • What Do They Do?

    Almost 70% of rural users access social networks, which are their most popular online destination. But while urban users focus on the social aspect, interacting with friends on sites such as Facebook, people in rural areas use social networks to access the Internet, which is where their consumption of content—such as news and videos—primarily occurs. Other popular activities for rural consumers are downloading media (45%), searching for information (41%), and chatting and e-mailing (30% each).

    Rural users’ online behavior varies by segment. Ambitious users play games, download media, and are especially active on social networks. The online activities of next-wave users are more limited: interacting on social networks and listening to music. Late adopters are mainly social networkers, while mature users seek out business and job information, read news, and play games.

    Online use evolves as users become more digitally mature. For mature users, the ability to interact with and influence peers is paramount, but as they spend more time online, all users gravitate toward consuming more content. (See the sidebar “A Mature User’s Internet Journey (So Far).”)


    “I started using the Internet when I was in college, four years back. I used a Nokia E63 and a Web browser for search. Now I own a Samsung Galaxy Grand smartphone and I have about ten apps for games, Facebook, Whatsapp, and shopping.”

    Vikas is only 26, but with four years of online experience, he is more than mature by the standards of India’s rural Internet users. Vikas lives in Haryana, where he runs a medical supply shop. His journey to Internet maturity is typical of rural consumers in India’s mature-user segment.

    Vikas is a trend follower; he keeps himself updated on the latest technology. Once he started online, he was quick to appreciate the benefits of social media and online search, even though he was using a feature phone with limited capability. Now he replaces his smartphone about every two years in order to have the latest technology. Online information and retailers influence his purchase decisions. Over the years, as Vikas has learned more about apps and digital content, he has upgraded data packs in order to get faster access to more Web options. His online spending has increased from about 150 rupees a month four years ago to about 350 rupees today. His usage has expanded from basic search and music downloads to watching videos, shopping and banking online, and accessing online job portals.

    The time that Vikas spends online has risen steadily from about 30 minutes a day to more than two hours a day. He appreciates the benefits of the Internet, citing convenience, exchange of knowledge, and the ability to get the latest news and sports updates, play games, and watch videos.

    Internet penetration and usage in rural India vary by geography. Two southern states, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and four northern states—Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir—have the highest penetration. Kerala at 37%, Himachal Pradesh at 28%, and Punjab at 27% top the chart. Many eastern states, such as Bihar (9%), Odisha (10%), West Bengal (11%), and Assam (12%), are at the lower end of the spectrum. Usage patterns vary quite starkly. Users from the north and south use online video and voice calling to stay in touch with family members, many of whom live outside of India. In the south, where literacy rates are higher, online job portals and education-related search activities are popular.