Market Insight — India

India is possibly the world’s most complex mobile market, it is so large that it deserves regional profiles.  We will probably get to that, for now though we’ll get a quick overview of India’s potential for your mobile app marketing.

As countries go, India has the second largest population next to China with over 1.2 Billion people.  That alone makes it difficult to generalize about anything.

Currency  – In the course of studying India, you may come across a unfamiliar few terms used alongside regular English.  One is lakh – a unit of measurement equal to 100,000.  Another is crore equal to 10,000,000.  As you probably know, India uses the Rupee (₹) for its currency, as of today (Dec 16, 2013) 100 Indian Rupees = US$1.61. 

We see that, by and large, India has a very low average income, but better than 2 to 1 in purchasing power.  That $1489 is “per year”, not per month.

India’s top 10 cities represent 63 million people alone, more than any other country examined so far and yet merely 5% of India’s overall population.   Maharashtra (12.5 million), Delhi (11 million), Chennai (8.4 million) and Hyberabad (6.8 million), account for over 38 million by themselves — meaning that each could be the object of a targeted marketing campaign.

IndiaLanguage.   If you thought South Africa was complex because of its dozen or so languages, India has over 1,500 languages.  Fortunately, only 400 or so are still commonly used — and only about thirty are spoken by over a million people.  Simplifying things a little further, India has only 22 official languages.   Hindi is the most prevalent with 551 million speakers, English has 125 million users (including mostly secondary and tertiary languages).   Bengali features as the third most spoken language with 91 million users, Telugu 84 million, Tamil 67 million and Urdu 59 million, after which the number of speakers per language drops off considerably.

Mobile Users:  According to the WorldBank, India has 69 mobile subscriptions per capita.  As with other countries, we can presume that a portion of users have two or more devices.  However, India has the longest mobile device lifespan of any country, between 8 and 9 years.   This slow adoption of new devices indicates that India is one market still well-suited for Java and HTML5 applications.

Per, a great publicly available source for mobile and computer usage statistics, Nokia has been in gradual decline and only recent surpassed by Android, both with a rough 30% share, a little less than 15% for Samsung, 9.4% for Symbian, and most telling – iOS for 1%.

Demographics of India’s Mobile Users largely favors young men between the ages of 15 and 34.  India is not egalitarian culture by European standards, but computer and mobile use by women is gradually increasing.

While the vast majority of this demographic do not have credit cards, alternative mobile payments are available. MobileOnMoney is one very recent start-up trying to follow in the footsteps of Kenya’s M-Pesa.  At the top level, the Indian government has issued 440 million biometric ID cards and man in charge of the program , Nandan Nilekani, intends to make it the basis for peer to peer payments.   India has too many payment systems to name, but for a comprehensive list check out the Reserve Bank of India’s list of Authorized Payment Systems.

Summary:  To do India Justice requires taking a more regional look, but there are enough commonalities in this short examination to warrant investigation by mobile developers from the West, and even more opportunities to work with local Indian developers to localize your app into one of its major languages – Hindi, Bengali, Telagu, for starters.


Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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