With about 300 million Indian consumers expected online by 2020, Internet in rural India is growing exponentially.
Rural areas account for two-thirds of the population of India , with a total of 870 million.
Reports suggest that 50 percent of new Internet users will belong to rural communities by 2020.
Triggers for the above are cheaper mobile handsets, the spread of wireless data networks, and evolving consumer behaviors and preferences.
India soon to become the second-largest nation of connected consumers, is changing its Internet format to meet the needs of the varied customer base.
In the survey conducted by the Center for Customer In-sight (CCI) of approximately 4,000 rural consumers in 27 villages in 14 states in 2015 and 2016, the number of connected rural consumers are to increase from about 120 million in 2015 to almost 315 million in 2020, a jump of almost 30 percent per year.
Rural growth will outpace growth in urban centers, and by 2020, rural users will constitute 48 percent of all connected consumers in India.
Rural Internet users have a male majority of 98 percent, while in cities even though men dominate at 79 percent women are also growing at 21 percent.
More than 60 percent of rural users started using internet in a period of less than two years and hence the usage pattern is still being set.
Users are classified on the basis of their usage pattern. The first class is the mature users, with an Internet penetration of 30 percent, in rural region.The second is the ambitious user, with around 8 percent rural user internet penetration. The third is the late adopters, having 16 percent online penetration, while the fourth are the next-wave users, with the internet penetration of around 9 percent. The fourth are the older internet users, with an internet penetration of only 1 percent.
Almost 70 percent of rural users are social network users, but also use it for viewing news and videos, downloading media, searching for information, and chatting and e-mailing, hence consuming more in
Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir have the highest penetration with Kerala at 37 percent, Himachal Pradesh at 28 percent, and Punjab at 27 percent leading the list. Also, many eastern states like Bihar with 9 percent, Odisha with 10 percent, West Bengal with 11 percent, and Assam with 12 percent, lie at the lower end of the spectrum.
Cost and network availability have led to two-third of rural population using low-end internet-enabled phones, with a quarter users having smartphones and only 10 percent using PCs or laptops.
Also, nearly 15 percent of rural consumers use the Internet to browse, buy, and register satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a product, compared with 30 percent of urban consumers, with four out of five rural Internet users purchases being digitally influenced.
The penetration of online purchasing in these areas doubled from 4 percent to 8 percent YoY.
Indian Internet economy will triple in size to $200 billion by 2020, owing to rural markets as the number of connected consumers climbs toward 300 million.
Digital strategies from companies targeting rural markets and specific attributes can enhance the rural growth possibilities.
A segmented view of the rural market, transforming the cost of serving rural markets, adaption of online experience for rural users, enhancing advertising budgets etc. are the moves that can be undertaken by telecoms for rural growth and future development.