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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  • Key Differences Between Urban and Rural Users

    There are significant differences between rural and urban Internet users that marketers need to take into account.

    Primarily for reasons of cost and network availability, almost two-thirds of rural users go online using inexpensive Internet-enabled phones (also known as feature phones) connected to 2G or sometimes 3G networks. Only about a quarter of these users have smartphones and only 10% use PCs or laptops. In urban areas, by contrast, almost two-thirds of users own smartphones, and another 20% use PCs or laptops. Rural usage patterns will change over time as device prices drop and faster networks are deployed. But in the near term, the experience for the vast majority of rural users will remain fundamentally different from that of their urban counterparts—the users for whom companies have so far been developing digital marketing strategies and campaigns.

    Because of the differences in device and network capability, rural and urban users use different apps for similar activities. For example, rural users are more likely to use the UC Web browser (which is popular in other emerging markets as well) because it employs technologies such as data compression, which helps load Web content faster and reduce data consumption during browsing. They tend to use apps such as SongsPK, which downloads songs for free, because streaming does not work well on 2G connections. For messaging, many rural residents use Whatsapp, which was probably one of the first apps they tried. Alternatives such as Hi and Line are perceived to be heavy data consumption apps; they are used more for video calls and exchanging files. Vernacular media consumption apps such as Dailyhunt (formerly NewsHunt) and Dainik Jagran are more popular than English apps such as The Times of India.

    Even when rural users use the same app as urban consumers, they often use it for different purposes. Take Facebook, which is a go-to app for millions. In cities, Facebook is all about staying in touch with friends and making use of its social features, such as photo and video sharing, while in rural areas, it is often the only app on the phone and therefore the main way to access news and videos. Rural users are much less likely than urban users to be interactive social media participants, who upload lots of content themselves.