Rural drives India’s digital revolution: Study

Local language and video are the underlying factors for the internet boom in rural markets

Rural drives India’s digital revolution: Study

Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights and consulting company released its ICUBETM 2019 report on digital adoption and usage trends in India. The annual tracking study; considered to be the currency for digital adoption in the country, gauges the changing digital ecosystem in India, measuring internet usage by demographic, activity and device segments.
Key findings

  • Estimated at 574 million, the number of monthly active Internet users have registered an annual growth of 24 percent indicating an overall penetration of 41 percent.
  • The report projects 11 percent growth for 2020; estimates 639 million monthly active Internet users

Active Internet User Estimated Growth Rate — 11%


574 Million

2020 (estimated)

639 Million


  • All monthly active Internet users use a mobile phone as one of the devices to access the Internet

Rural masses propels India’s digital revolution

India’s digital revolution continues to be propelled by the rural population. Rural India registered a 45 percent growth in the monthly active internet users in 2019. It is now estimated that there are 264 million internet users in rural India, and this is expected to reach 304 million in 2020. Local language and video are the underlying factors for the internet boom in rural markets. The rural population has finally crossed the chasm by embracing the Internet in a big way, resulting in a 2.5X growth in penetration in the last 4 years.
Entertainment moves online
As per the ICUBETM 2019 report, about 84 percent users access the internet for entertainment purposes. Year 2019 witnessed a surge in OTT, both audio and video, in part driven by original content and Cricket (both IPL and Cricket world cup streamed on OTT Platforms). Convenience of content availability across devices and ‘on the go’, low cost internet service resulted in significant growth in entertainment consumption in the last year. This is expected to continue in 2020, especially in view of the COVID-19 lockdown.
More children on the Internet
At 38 percent growth year on year, school going children segment in the age group of 15 years or below has shown a promising growth on the internet usage. Access to information and education, social media, gaming and entertainment, especially, sports, are driving the adoption.

Content availability drives the surge in daily usage
Content is the king and is driving the surge in daily internet usage. ICUBETM 2019 reports a growth of more than 60 percent in the daily Internet users in the last one year; almost 9 out of 10 active internet users were accessing the internet daily owing to entertainment and communication needs.
Road ahead

  • Children and housewives will be the new internet adopters in the next year or two. Most of these users already have Internet at home, and it will be more about breaking the mindset barriers to access the web. With the availability of curated content for these groups, the adoption will be considerably faster amongst these segments.
  • Video, Voice and Vernacular (3Vs) will be significant usage factors for the Internet users. These will drive higher engagement and frequency of usage, thereby, helping the users mature in their Internet journey.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Devices will make the internet as much a household phenomenon as it is an individual phenomenon.

Speaking on the study, Puneet Avasthi, Senior Director, Insights Division, Kantar said, “The latest edition of Kantar ICUBETM 2019 report shows that the digital base in India has achieved a strong growth with the addition of over 112 million users last year. The new decade is expected to witness the next wave of Digital India aided by the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has catalysed the speed at which the already connected consumer is getting further connected with devices, payments, e-medicine among other services.”

“Kantar’s ICUBETM 2019 report gives a front-line view of the digital adoption and its growth drivers, thereby providing marketers the key insights necessary for formulating their marketing and communication strategies,” Avasthi added.
“The lockdown and social distancing have pushed users experiment with various digital solutions, some of them by desire while others due to compulsion. The comfort of accessing services and availing their benefits from the comfort of home in the times of social distancing will continue to push users to adopt and use multiple Internet services. Given this, the year 2020 is likely to see a tectonic shift in both internet adoption and frequency of usage. OTT, hyperlocal services, social media and communication and online payments will be some key elements that will drive the impact,” said Biswapriya Bhattacharjee, Vice President, Insights Division, Kantar.

The Changing Face of Rural India