Low cost of smartphones and data, the rise of Jio, the government’s push for digital adoption as well as other factors have accelerated the transitioning from feature phones to smartphones in India.
Mobiles have become the medium of choice or ‘First screens’ for media consumption, with an anytime, anywhere accessibility in vernacular languages.
“Consumers” carry supercomputers in their pockets, enabling them to have access to and interact with rich content.
This is the rise of mobile content.
A recent report by KPMG states that the number of Internet-enabled mobile phones crossed 300 Mn in 2016 and is expected to touch 700 Mn in 2021. Clearly, mobile devices remain the primary choice for Indians for their digital needs. Alongside this, the appetite of digital customers for rich content is continuously growing.
Given these developments, we can expect the rate of the growth of 4G networks to be prolific when compared to the growth in wired connections and Wi-Fi access.
However, technological developments aside, content focused mobile-first businesses are also driving the rise in mobile Internet adoption and speed. Entrepreneurs are also offering solutions to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities with vernacular language content and support, which is becoming more and more important.
The numbers support this development as only a small percentage of Indian citizens read English, and the country is more literate in Hindi, Tamil, Bengali and other local languages. Overall, the rapid online adoption indicates that we are moving from a time where most content experiences were via analogue media, to where all content experiences are digital and on mobile.
Additionally, the rapid upheaval of technology and storming fast internet has led to an enormous growth in the number of smartphone users in India. The unprecedented demand for smartphones in India has made it the second largest smartphone market in the world. The latest forecast by eMarketer, the US-based market research firm, suggests that more than a quarter of India’s population will be using smartphones by the end of this year.
The number of smartphone users in India is expected to grow by 15.6% to reach 337 Mn in 2018. Surprisingly, it is the highest estimated growth rate posted by any country in the world.
In the last few years, along with the boom in mobile online content, the growth of regional language users on the Internet has been phenomenal.
According to a 2017 study by KPMG and Google in India, the Indian language Internet user-base grew at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41% in the period between 2011 and 2016. The number of Indian language Internet users has grown from 42 Mn in 2011 to 234 Mn at the end of 2016, surpassing the 175 Mn English Internet users.
By 2021, the gap is expected to widen, and we will start to see more activity in local languages. The report also points out that users of Indian languages are expected to more than double to 536 Mn, while English users will increase to only 199 Mn. 9 out of 10 new internet users between 2016 and 2021 will use local languages.
With strong data supporting the idea of going vernacular, I firmly believe that the next 400 Mn mobile Internet users will be local language users and they will not use the internet if it is not in their local language.
The Coming Of Age Of Mobile Content
The next big development is ‘personalizing’ news, a term mostly used by e-commerce companies that cater to consumers based on their search history. Along with this, cognitive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) are also disrupting the mobile content consumption space.
Mobile applications are now generating insights using AI by mining social media, search trends, geo-location data and other digital signals. Because of this, consumers are now able to access personalized web layouts in short form content. Content is also being offered to users in different formats like text, videos, and photo galleries.
Such upgrades in content offering is bringing in a new user interface and making the user experience cleaner, richer with new features to help discover and read articles, books, comics, watch videos and more. In this way, mobile content apps are slowly evolving from being single-faceted to multi-faceted.
To conclude, it is important to understand that India is a unique market and there is significant potential customer base to tap, and with just 10 percent of India’s population on smartphones, there’s plenty of headway to be made. Having said this, I would also like to add that compelling content is the only critical factor to sustained consumption. Moving forward, India will be witnessing a flurry of mobile applications that support native languages.