Thursday, September 11, 2008

India by the Numbers

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the areas I focus on is Indian language products and services. The basic thesis is this: India has a huge population of people who should be using the internet but are not. One of the primary barriers to usage is language: the internet is a fairly unfriendly place in India if you don't speak English. Let's try removing or lowering this barrier, and the internet becomes useful for a much larger group of people. I'll elaborate on each of these points in subsequent posts, but for now, let's look at some numbers* (you could quibble about some of these e.g. literacy numbers supplied by state governments may be inflated, but they are in range of the true number):
  • Total population: 1.2 billion
  • Total literate population: 650 million
  • Total middle class population: 350 million
  • Total newspaper readership: 200 million
  • Total vernacular newspaper readership: 180 million (90% of total)
  • Total English-speaking population: 80 million (self-identified as speaking as first- or second-language in the 2001 census)
  • Total online population: 40 - 50 million
If you (quite reasonably) assume that pretty much everyone who is online in India today speaks English, then the low internet user base makes sense - it's more than a 50% penetration among English-speakers, and zero among the other 93% of the population.

We need to build the Indian language web. Who's in?

* (Sources: 2001 Indian Census and 2006 National Readership Survey)