India on course to overtake US next month in Internet user base

Current user base 375 million and expected to reach 402 million in December, putting India behind only China


The number of active mobile Internet users grew about 99% to 80 million by October 2015 and is expected to reach 87 million by December and 109 million by June 2016. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
The number of active mobile Internet users grew about 99% to 80 million by October 2015 and is expected to reach 87 million by December and 109 million by June 2016. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

New Delhi: The number of Internet users in India is expected to reach 402 million by December, a 49% jump over the last year, making India home to the largest online user base after China, according to a report released Tuesday by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market research firm IMRB International.

India, which has the third largest Internet user base in the world after China and the US, had about 375 million Internet users in October. By December, this number is expected to overtake US, the report said. China currently leads with more than 600 million Internet users.

Active Internet users in rural India are expected to reach 117 million by December and 147 million by June 2016 on the back of growing penetration of mobile phones in the country.

Rural Internet users witnessed a 77% jump to reach 108 million in October 2015. The number of active rural mobile Internet users grew about 99% to 80 million by October 2015, and is expected to reach 87 million by December and 109 million by June 2016, the report stated.

The contribution of mobile phones as the main Internet access point in rural India has grown to 60% in 2015 from 38% in 2014. The usage of common service centres to access Internet has reduced to 6% from 26% a year ago.

Online communication continues to be the primary purpose of accessing the Internet. Other activities, in which close to three quarters of the population engages in, are social networking and entertainment.

However, rural India is seeing a drop in usage of Internet for online communication, giving space to entertainment and social networking as the leading categories. According to the report, gaming through social-networking sites has picked up fast with 36% of the user base, up from 21% in the last year. On the entertainment side, 80% users consume multimedia content, up 33% from last year.

According to the report, men dominate the Internet user base in the country, forming about 71% of the total user base, while women constitute about 29% of the Internet users.

Internet usage among men has been growing at 50%, while the growth rate for women users is 46%. However, in urban India, the ratio of men and women Internet users is 62:38.

The report also reveals that there has been a huge spurt in the number of people accessing Internet on a daily basis in urban India.

As of October 2015, 69% of the users were using Internet on a daily basis, a 60% jump over last year.

Internet users in the top eight metros account for 31% of the total size, and Mumbai hosts the largest base of monthly active users, the report said.

Small metros are witnessing a 60% jump in number of users and cities, including Surat, have the highest Internet ownership in the country.

According to the report, the high frequency usage is not restricted to only the youth and college students. This habit of accessing the Internet daily can be seen among older men and non-working women as well. About 75% of working women access Internet daily, and a similar percentage of Internet users among both the genders access the Web at least once a week.

The IAMAI-IMRB survey was conducted across 35 cities with more than one million population, including eight large metros and smaller cities, including Coimbatore, Jaipur, Lucknow, Ludhiana and Visakhapatnam.

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