It is easy to say that Mobile was the biggest trend of the year in the rapidly-changing world of technology and although we’ve been talking about mobile for a while, it’s only in 2015 that everyone came to terms with the enormity of the impact mobile is having in India. The internet in India saw phenomenal growth, crossing the 300-million user milestone and becoming the second largest base of internet users globally, and all that growth was driven by mobile. We estimate this number will go up to 500 million by 2017, with 400 million Indians expected to use the internet from their smartphones.
Here are a few of milestones that shows how mobile had a huge impact in 2015:
India’s tech sector rise
In 2015, India continued to be the fastest growing internet user market in the world (number of new internet users added) and ends the year with over 150 million connected smartphone users. This positive momentum and growth gave confidence to many graduates and professionals to take the plunge and become entrepreneurs. In 2015, with 4,200 enterprises, India moved up the ranks taking third position for the number of start-ups. In the first quarter of 2015 alone, investors from all over the world pumped $2.36 billion into Indian firms (including Google Capital). Many new entrants and investments led to an explosion in India’s tech sector, with Indian companies successfully competing against multinationals and achieving impressive growth and market penetration. Eight Indian internet companies are now valued at over $1 billion, including Uber competitor Ola, and e-commerce leaders Flipkart and Snapdeal. Hyperlocal came of age and we’re seeing very interesting start-ups focussing on providing local services and products. We will continue to see more action on the start-up front in 2016, with some sectors undergoing rapid consolidation and other sectors beginning to emerge. All these start-ups are building their businesses mobile-first and most have more than 50% of their traffic and transactions coming from mobile.
Mobile payments became a real thing
India’s growth potential was always talked about in the long term but in 2015, we saw that change with many companies announcing plans to accelerate their investments and focus on India. eCommerce went mainstream with over 50 million online shoppers clocking over $10 billion in GMV. The number of online shoppers is projected to reach 100 million by 2017. But one of the most important trends in 2015 was mobile payments. Mobile payments became a real thing in India with huge growth and Paytm leading from the front. It is amazing that within a few years of launch, Paytm has more active mobile wallet users than the entire Indian credit card industry. It is very clear that mobile payments will be how India will pay. Just as India leapfrogged landline phones (with mobile phones), we will leapfrog traditional card based payments with mobile payments.
Language Web took off
2015 was the year when Indian language internet emerged. The number of local-language internet users grew at 47% year-over-year. Consumption of Hindi Web content grew at over 90% year on year compared to 19% growth in english content — clearly establishing the urgent need to make the Indic web work better for everyone.
Google also rolled out several major product and ecosystem initiatives to enable the Indian language internet. We’ve been working with 30 partners on the Indian Language Internet Alliance (ILIA) to make the Web more useful to Indic language speakers and also launched many new products focused on enabling local languages.
Debating future growth
2015 was also the year of change for internet in India — we saw very active and productive debates around Net Neutrality and the need for open web so that everyone can participate and gain from the Internet. No fast lanes, full and open access to the internet and pro-consumer policies were some clear demands being put forth to the government. Internet in India clearly got established as a growth engine for the country with both users and entrepreneurs demanding policies which were pro consumers and focussed on future growth. Need for faster networks, growing demand for data as evident in the reports filed by telcos and the need for more affordable data plans became a common agenda.
As we end 2015, India has over 300 million Indians online and a vibrant internet ecosystem. Although we have come a long way, with only 25% of Indians online, the best is yet to come.
The author is Vice-President & MD, Google, South-East Asia & India