300 million Internet Users in India By Dec? Grossly Wrong [10+ Questions to IAMAI]

One month and India will have more Internet users than US!!
Don’t believe me? Well, that’s the prediction from IAMAI and IMRB’s recent report.
Excerpts their report (emphasis is mine)

The number of Internet users in India would reach 302 million by December 2014, registering a Y-o-Y growth of 32% over last year.
In October 2014, there were 278 million internet users in India. Currently, India has the third largest internet users’ base in the world but it is estimated that by December 2014, India will overtake the US as the second largest Internet users’ base in the world. China currently leads with more than 600 million internet users while the US currently has estimated 279 million internet users.
According to the report, the number of internet users in urban India has grown by 29% from October 2013 to reach 177 million in October 2014. It is expected to reach 190 million by December 2014 and 216 million by June 2015. Significantly, compared to last year, in rural India, Internet users have increased by 39% to reach 101 million in October 2014. It is expected to reach 112 million by December 2014 and 138 million by June 2015.
As on June 2014, 31.5 million (61%) in 35 cities were using Internet on a daily basis. The daily user base has gone up by 51% from June 2013. 96% of the Internet users are accessing Internet at least once a week. Out of these, 18% access Internet 4 to 6 times a week and 14% access Internet 2 to 3 times a week.

The numbers are not just grossly wrong, but misleading as well. A look at Google and Facebook dashboard clearly tells that there is a potential of 120-140 million users at the maximum and we just want you (the entrepreneur/decision makers/CXOs/agencies) to be realistic about it and not be part of the hype creation cycle.

Questions to IAMAI and IMRB

1. Who do we call an Internet user?
– By tenure of usage
– By frequency of usage
– By place of access
– By device on which accessed internet
– Paying vs. Non-paying (mobiles on only free office wifi)
– Who is active? Who is occasional? Who is regular?
Basically, who are these 300million people (in terms of their activity)?
2. Where are they coming from?
– Urban vs. Rural India (by Census definition of Urban vs. Rural)
– Town classes by population?
– Age groups?
– Gender?
– Socio-economic class
– Percentage of computer users
– Percentage of mobile users
3. Methodology ? How did you arrive at these numbers?
– What is the methodology?
# Did you do a survey or Did you look at the current data?
# Did you count the subscriptions/connections (wired — lease line/cable/broadband/ethernet, wireless-mobile/dongle connections)?
# Did you count the subscribers from the operator reported data? How did you count?
How did you arrive at the average subscribers per household/connection? Average users per Office connection vs. Home Connection vs. Cyber cafe vs. Mobile connection? What’s the source?
# Did you look at the userbase of 20% websites of the long tail? Which are these websites?
# Did you look at the server logs of the ISPs/Gateways?
# Did you count the IP addresses?
– By the way, which one is the best method, in absence of a census data? (Indian Census 2011 didn’t really ask people whether they use Internet or not).

4. If you did a survey, please help with these questions:
– Where did you do the survey? (was it a mix of online and offline?)
# How many towns & villages?  Which are these towns and villages?
# How & Why did you select these towns and villages, not any other? Is the selection complete statistically random process? (Note: Statistically random is what www.random.org defines as random) Basically what is the rationale?
# Once you selected towns & villages, how did you decide which locations to go in the town and village? (e.g., Dehi has 2635 colonies, and 272 words and some 2300+ election polling stations/booths — which ones did you go to within Delhi?)

5. Who did you meet in the survey?
– How did you decide to meet a particular person in a survey? Who is your respondent?
– If you went to an office who did you meet?
– If you went to a household, who did you meet? Why did you meet this person and not anyone else?
– What percentage of your respondents are head of household, housewives, adult males, adult females, kids, mobile users vs. mobile non-users, internet users vs. internet non-users?
– How many of your respondents are Internet users? Who reported the total number of internet users in the household — an internet user or a non-internet user? What devices do they carry?

6. How did you project the survey to the population/universe figures?
What did you considered as the so called homogeneous cell, did you assume that all male and all females are 2 groups in India or you assumed that in a state, within a town class all people from a particular socio economic class, in a particular age, within a age group, with mother tongue as preferred language are homogeneous. Basically, how many cells did you divide whole urban and rural India into?
What’s the basis for you to arrive at the estimates of population for this universe or cells?

7. How did you verify that your estimate is correct?
– Can you tell us how some of the other numbers coming out of your estimate, like number of HHs in India with electricity is same as what Census India 2011 told us?
– Please share how the numbers you are coming out are verifiable, comparable to that of numbers coming from other sources?

8. Overlap, anyone?
Can you tell us what is the overlap between :
(A) Users accessing internet on PC/Laptop vs.
(B) Users Accessing Internet on Mobile Device (with data plan activated)
(C) vs. Users Unknowingly Accessing Internet through Operator WAP portal (like Airtel live, vodafone services, aircel pocket internet, tatadocomo dive-in)
– Basically, can you please show a Venn diagram of AUBUC? 🙂 [We just hope that AUBUC != A+B+C]

9. How do you project numbers to different year or time period?
– Do you draw a trendline? Or you use some complex proprietary tool? Many a time BODMAS is the black box 😉
# What function in the trend? — liner, exponential, logarithmic, Why?
# Do you know, the estimates for 2015 in 2011 is never same as the estimate for 2015 for 2015m, because no one cares in 2015 usually there is an estimate for 2020 🙂
And finally:

10. According to you, what are those couple of big things that has happened in Indian Internet that justifies the 32% y-o-y growth over the last year?
– Has the internet access opportunity (wired – ISP, wireless – mobile data network coverage) gone up?
# TRAI network report?
– Has internet access price gone down (wired – ISP, wireless – mobile) drastically?
# Number of new wired & wireless users added (Balance sheet of service providers)
– Has internet access device market has changed drastically?
# Shipment of access devices
# Internet connections activated
– Has local language computing environment changed?
# What has happened in local language computing space?
# Even if we believe touch will help us leapfrog from keyboard issue, how many with Non-SIM or SIM based tablets sold in India (are we assuming 100%) of them activated internet
Importantly, if this 32% growth has happened, then why is it not showing up in the revenues of the service providers and other players, their monthly unique users numbers and revenue?
Where is the money then? Let me ask again, Where is the money then ? What’s the impact of this growth in industries?

We hope IAMAI and related research agencies repsond to these queries and share this data (we aren’t sending any email to anybody and request no PR calls).
If you are an entrepreneur/decision maker/agency and you have started to rework on your business plan (pivoting?) with the new new 300 million userbase data, HOLD ON.
The numbers aren’t true.
On a practically positive note, start with 120 million userbase (go through this tweet conversation) and yes, please feel free to share this piece with peer entrepreneurs.
The 300 million is far far away from the reality. This euphoria isn’t really needed. India is a growing market and we will grow – but let’s be honest about the numbers and let’s not mislead our entrepreneurs and decision makers.
PS : If you are a senior leader/researcher and wish to share your opinion/insights on these numbers, please connect with us (ashish@nextbigwhat.com)
Image credit : shutterstock


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  1. It’s good to ask questions on someone’s finding and most of the time it’s the most easiest way too. Rather than just questioning / criticizing the report, the author may wish to publish a counter statistics, this may be an eye opener 🙂

  2. Interesting doubt but still I see unprecedented increase in Indian internet users stemming from tier 3 towns and rural belt, thanks to 3 powerful magnets ie mobile , social & e-commerce, now this will get a major boost with more localization, its an extremely win win scenario

  3. more than 40% of the people accessing internet in India are appeared tobe accessing either for US or any other county, because India government has blocked lots of site. So numbers might be wrong but clearly, Numbers of people accessing internet in India are not any less than they predicted. You might wanna consider check your questions again.

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