(iStock)
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Most of India’s digitally monetizable users want vernacular content: Report

  • India had an active Internet user base of 530 million in 2018, comprising 260 million 'monetizable' users
  • This is expected to grow to 400 million by 2023 owing to the rise in the total number of Internet users

New Delhi: About 80% of India’s digitally monetizable users prefer their content to come in vernacular languages and not English.

According to a new report by research and consulting firm RedSeer, India had an active Internet user base of 530 million in 2018, comprising 260 million “monetizable" users, which is expected to grow to 400 million by 2023 owing to the rise in the total number of Internet users. Consumption of digital content in vernacular languages is a preference for 210 million of these users who come with an annual spending power of $300 billion.

Conducted in 121 cities and towns and across 2,400 Internet users and 600 non-Internet users, the report on ‘Vernacular is now, not the future,’ aims to understand the preferences and consumption patterns of English-first versus vernacular-first users in India, especially in the digital space.

These vernacular users are spending 56% of their time on the Internet (especially on smartphones) as compared to other media (TV, print and radio), the report says. Social media and content drives their consumption of time on the Internet, with rural consumption higher than that of urban. However, 80% of the vernacular user base accesses Facebook in English due to low quality perception of online vernacular content. This base can be tapped if the quality of vernacular content is improved.

“Through this study, we found that India has added Internet users at 8X speed in the last 10 years driven by small towns and villages and not by large cities, where users are entering the digital ecosystem due to access, affordability and aspirations," Anil Kumar, founder and CEO, RedSeer said. “The top 50 cities today account for less than 20% of the Internet user base, and will continue to decrease as a percentage of overall Internet user base in the next five years. In this context, it becomes important for advertisers to look at the user base from a monetizability lens and understand how the time spent by these users on the Internet is changing, as the vernacular platforms now account for 56% of overall time spent on social media."

Vernacular users can be classified into three broad segments. First are the vernacular pure who have a strong preference for their vernacular language and their basic phone usage (phone settings, keyboard), social engagement via phone (social media, communication, etc.) and online content consumption is in their vernacular language. They comprise 20% of all monetizable users.

Then come the vernacular intermediate who prefer English as the basic phone usage language, while social engagement and online content consumption is in the vernacular language. They comprise 30% of all monetizable users.

Finally come the vernacular first who prefer English for basic phone usage and social engagement, whilst preferring to consume online content in their vernacular language. They comprise 30% of all monetizable users.

Vernacular monetizable Internet users have three times the total spending power of monetizable English internet users. With approximately 210 million monetizable users in India, with a per capita average annual spend of $1400-$1500, the total annual spending power of this segment translates to $300 billion, the report said. In comparison, the total annual spending power of monetizable English users is $155 billion.

This highlights the importance of the vernacular user in the evolving digital space. While advertisers are reaching English users, it is only 25% of the total spend capacity. Almost 75% of the spend capacity is still untouched as vernacular-first users are less likely to engage with English ads. Vernacular platforms offer higher engagement as compared to English platforms. This, in combination with maturing vernacular platforms translates into a $3 billion opportunity for vernacular digital ad spend.

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