In this Idea Exchange moderated by Deputy Editor Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, Google India Managing Director Rajan Anandan talks about the impact of the Internet on urban voters, data requests the company gets from the government, and Google’s mission of ‘digitising’ India
SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE: There is a lot of buzz around social media in these elections, and you are also the chairman of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). What was the standard you used to say that India has 213 million Internet users? How credible is that number?
IAMAI, together with IMRB, does annual research among thousands of respondents in urban, metro and rural areas. That’s how we got the 213 million number. It’s a very robust number, which is validated through carrier data as well as figures provided by companies such as ours. The quarterly financial reports of telecom companies report the number of active mobile Internet users they have. So if we add up the numbers of the top five telcos, it’s about a 150-160 million active mobile Internet users. And we know from our own data that there are over 200 million users.
What’s interesting is that it took 10 years for India to go from 10 million Internet users to a 100 million, but three years to go from 100 million to 200 million. Today we are adding about 4 million new users a month. So by end of this year, India would have 250 million users. And by the end of next year, even at the current growth rate, we should have over 300 million. So, for an Internet company, India is important and strategic. Regardless of where an Internet company is launched today, India very quickly becomes a large user base for it. So, Sequoia India invested in Truecaller, a Scandinavian start-up. This is the first time that it has ever happened. And the reason is that though Truecaller is a global platform, India is its largest user base.
India is one of the few markets in the world where we are seeing Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 happening together. In developed Internet markets like the US or UK and even China, the Web had two distinct phases. There was a Web 1.0 which was Yahoo, Amazon, Google — all of which were launched in the ’90s. Web 2.0 is a social, mobile, local and video phenomenon — YouTube, smartphones, all those came up in the late 2000s. In India, all of that is at the same time. Everything that took about 20 years to happen in the west, in India, it is going to happen in the next five to seven years.
This year, the number of smartphone users in India will double from 70 million to 130-140 million. So if you think about the current election, our view, based on some research we did four-five months ago, is that urban India continued…