Are You Ready For The Indian Internet Explosion?

I just returned from a few weeks in the major cities of India doing seminars, meeting with various emerging technology companies and my development team for some yet to be disclosed tools. I was constantly amazed with how fast the Internet, online business and broadband connectivity is growing. I have been to India a number of times previously and even since my visit last year for the SEMPO Asia Roadshow stop in Mumbai, Internet usage in India has been growing exponentially.

The Digital Divide

I had the opportunity to sit on a roundtable of India’s leading digital experts all giving their opinions of where the market is going and what we as Search and Digital Marketers need to do to advance the online advertising market. The biggest question was how do we close this Digital Divide?

According to the India Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) annual report released last month, online advertising in India is estimated to have reached Rs. 785 billion ($17.3 million) for FY 2009-10. Spend for 2010-2011 is expected to increase by 28% to Rs. 5.34 billion ($21.9 million). Text ads in Search and links on sites make up a little more than half of that spend projected to grow to Rs 459 billion ($10.1 million)

There are over 70 million Internet users and India and the online advertising spend reaches a fraction of those users so the growth potential is significant. The problem is few large companies are leveraging online adverting.

The verticals with the largest spend online are Auto, Financial Services, Online Publishers, Travel and IT & Telecom. CPG companies have not really adapted but seem to be showing interest. This follows a similar pattern to what we have seen in the US, Europe and in Asia.

The key to rapid growth and adoption is education. I am hopeful that with more of the right information, case studies and seminars, as well as publications like Search Engine Land can help educate senior marketers at India-based companies to at least try digital techniques that have shown to be very effective in the rest of the world.

Mobile Broadband Internet Availability

Thanks first go to Vivek Bhargava and his awesome team at Communicate 2 who loaned me one of their 3G broadband cards to use on my trip, which turned out to be a lifesaver. Due to the traffic problems in all the major cities, I spent a lot of time in a car or taxi going from place to place. The WiFi allowed me to stay connected and with the exception of a few locations, I did not miss a beat with getting things done or the occasional Skype call.

For those that don’t have a WiFi card or dongle, MTS a large Indian mobile phone company, just announced they will partner with Meru, the largest taxi company in India, to offer passengers the free use of a  WiFi data card when in the cab. This service is rolling out in Delhi then will expand to many other large cities.

Also at the roundtable, one of the speakers talked about a very interesting trend in rural India. Most of those who live there are poor farmers, so they will often buy one mobile phone and then the family will gather around as they download the dialogue from popular movies.

They are not able to watch them since they don’t have a TV but they can at least listen to them in either English or the translation of a local language. This is very similar to Western families gathering around the radio listening to dramas and comedies.

Conferences & Events

The trip was capped off by speaking at the ClickAsia Summit in Mumbai. This was  the largest digital marketing event ever in India and did a great job of kick starting a round of events and enthusiasm for large scale broad focused conferences as we are accustomed to in more advanced digital markets. ClickAsia will be quickly followed by Ad:Tech India to be held in New Delhi India at the end of April.

The vibe a the event was amazing and thee was a real hunger for best practices and how they can adapt to the local Indian markets. The people wanted to know about everything and wanted more at the breaks and at lunch crowing around all the speakers trying to get every morsel of information from them. There were many entrepreneurs hawing new products and services for the local market as well as those hoping to get funding to go global

I did see a lot of smaller local events and seminars. In nearly every city I visited, I saw advertisements and or received invites to attend these during social media or via my India network of friends. These were cheap by western standards, but they were well attended.

The seminars I conducted were catering to more established online companies helping them to take digital to the next level. They were most interested in how to make the business case for search, social and quite frankly, any sort of digital advertising as well as best practices for measuring and generating scale.

Opportunities In Online India

I have a lot of hope for India to be a major online opportunity for Western companies in the future. While the Internet connection speeds are good in many places, they are not in others. I had a lot of trouble getting on in offices and in hotels, but with my 3g card I had a better experience.

Not everyone who can buy one even has a card that is global compatible or a way to purchase – although PayPal seems to work well. The delivery infrastructure is not as strong as it could be, but for awareness of products, that is what long range planning is all about.

There are not many markets where there is still 20+ percent growth year over year and we only have scratched the surface of the Internet usage. While it might not be yet ripe for your situation, it is defiantly a market you should keep an eye on – it could surprise us all.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Multinational Search | Search Engines: Outside USA


About The Author: is currently the President of Back Azimuth Consulting and co-author of Search Engine Marketing Inc. His personal blog is

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  • Suresh Babu SEO

    Hi Bill

    Yes Indian Market in growing and seeing a lot of potential. I was busy with the SMS India, The Premier Search Marketing Summit Bangalore, which I was organizing with The Akshaya Patra Foundation, so couldnt make it to CAS 2011. Yes said it right, there is a need for Conferences and Seminars in India, We try our best to come up with monthly meetups and conferences in Bangalore. One such meetups and association is OME Community, Online Marketing Enthusiast Community in Bangalore, We will see more and more conferences, It was amazing just to see more than 200 attendees for SMS India, where we had Gillian, Ian, Eric , John and others speak in the event, and attendees students, Professors from Ireland all parts of India were there.

    The Enthusiasm and passion for Search is growing in India. Looking forward for more events, Gillian was sharing about passion and Enthusiasm for CAS 2011.


  • rdhawan

    This is indeed true; the only problem or the issue as I see today is the lack of a consolidated industry wherein the industry per-se follows a unified approach towards digital marketing. You may say that the absence of standards could be considered as a major bottleneck for corporates and individuals alike. Probably, the audience will mature with time and things will improve in terms of standardized practices and procedures.

    However, one thing that stands out is the fact that there is no dearth of good talent within the country. And the situation is set to improve over time.

  • ankurchaudhary

    Interesting read! A couple of further/related observations:

    The mantra for Indian companies seems to be adopt – adapt – enhance! More often than not the enhancement means reducing the best practices into products that can leverage the technical expertise (read coding skills) and human resources (read favorable wage rates) that the Indian market offers. Further, the nimbleness of the Indian firms stems from the fact that they are small, assimilate fast and act even faster. Would be interesting to see how cross-market communications would develop as the online marketing matures a bit more.

    @Bill: I think there is a small typo when you talk about the advertising spend growth. 1 billion is 100 crores (ref. the IAMAI report) and consequently the figure would be 785 crores of 7.85 billion rupees (173 million dollars).

  • AjiNIMC

    Indian Market is booming without any doubt but there is a big mismatch here. I shall sometimes write about it. We work for large Indian brands, SMEs and Local businesses …. There is a major major challenge in India. I find DIY the only way here.


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