India Social Media

Around 121 million of India’s 1.2 billion people are online. It seems a relatively small number (proportionately, at least), but according to reports, 2012 will see an explosion in internet growth, driven by the take up of mobile phones. Fixed-line broadband internet penetration is still only at around 10 per cent, while India has a reported 700 million mobile subscribers, a large proportion of whom live in rural areas, with around 200,000 being added each day.

“According to reports, 2012 will see an explosion in internet growth, driven by the take up of mobile phones.”

In areas where infrastructure and fixed telecom lines are patchy, and many people would have to walk miles to access the internet, it makes sense that internet use will be driven by the availability of affordable mobile phones and tablets (the Akaash II tablet, which will retail for 2263 Indian Rupees – about £26 – was announced in June). As a result, brands targeting Indian consumers need to think mobile for their campaigns, websites and social network pages to be effective.

  • India has over 50 million active social media users
  • Facebook is the biggest social network in India, with around 38 million users
  • Orkut has 18 million users and LinkedIn around 10.6 million
  • Domestic social networking sites are very popular. Ibibo has 12 million users and BharatStudent 7 million
  • Video platforms are predicted to take off in 2012

Nielsen research shows that there are 50+ million active social media users in India, and they spend more time on social media than anywhere else. According to The Next Web, Facebook is the dominant social network in India (and is tipped to become the largest Facebook market in the world by 2015), followed by LinkedIn and then the Google-owned Orkut (with around 18 million users). Statistics from the GlobalWeb Index show that 49 per cent of Indian social network users now have a Google+ account, so it’s possible that Orkut users may start migrating over, or chose to keep both profiles active.

The Indian Economic Times reports that Facebook in India has around 38 million users (around 40 per cent of whom access the site via a mobile phone); although SocialBakers puts this figure at nearer 50 million. Analyst Rajesh Prabankhar (who also puts the Facebook user base a little higher, at 46 million users) says that social network users in India are mostly urban, male, and under 34 years old. According to Wat Consult, a social media consulting firm, Mumbai has the highest number of Facebook users at 3.7 million, followed by Chennai at 1.2 million users.

LinkedIn is also growing in India, just behind the UK in terms of user numbers (10.6 million). In an interview with The Indian Economic Times, Hari Krishnan, LinkedIn’s business head in India, says that mobile use changes a LinkedIn user’s behaviour, focusing on “four key areas: user profiles, status updates, groups and the inbox.”

Then there are India’s own social networking sites, most notably Ibibo, with 12 million users; and BharatStudent with 7 million users.

Video consumption is also on the rise. Prasant Naidu, writing for Startup Asia, predicts that video will boom in India in 2012, driven in part by the viral nature of Bollywood, and in part by an increase in social TV. YouTube’s popularity can be demonstrated by the music video “Why This Kolaveri Di” which was a viral hit at the close of 2011. The song was a combination of Tamil and English and got around 40 million views on YouTube by the end of January 2012 – as well as trending on Twitter.


  • People use social media primarily to get details on sales and discounts
  • International brand Dove is the most popular on Facebook, followed by domestic telecoms company Tata Dacomo
  • MTV’s Nano Drive is just one example of brands using social to engage fans

What do Indian consumers want from brands on social media? Neilson’s research indicates that is isn’t terribly different from the rest of the world, with 53 per cent wanting to hear about sales and discounts, 50 per cent looking for information on industry trends, and 48 per cent needing advice on using and maintaining products and services.

Brands would do well to take note as Forrester Research has discovered that Indian social media users are some of the most engaged users in the world: 83 per cent were found to be critics; 80 per cent content creators; and 79 per cent conversationalists. 57 per cent of online consumers are willing to receive brand information.

India’s most innovative social media campaign?Hippo’s Indian Food League.

The biggest brands on Facebook in India (and bearing in mind Facebook is the biggest network in India, it would be fair to say these are the biggest brands online in the country) are, according to Socialbakers: Indian telecommunications company Tata Docomo (over 8.3 million fans); Indian sunglasses brand Fastrack (over 4.1 million fans) and food/beverage brand Kingfisher (just over 4 million fans).

But search online for the most innovative social campaigns in India, and one name crops up again and again: the Indian Food League campaign by Hippo. It’s a simple campaign which pits regional dishes against each other, and encourages users to comment on a virtual chalk board showing the day’s menu. It all ties into the cricket season; the idea being that friends and families eat together as they watch the cricket together. It has a very specific regional appeal, and uses Twitter and Facebook as well as the hub of the campaign, a microsite for user generated content.

Another interesting social campaign for 2012 is MTV’s ‘Nano Drive’ – a social streaming reality show which shows four teams driving across the country for three weeks. The contestants compete for social engagement, by blogging, taking photos and videos that are shared on social platforms, and tweeting; the winner is the team who gets the highest engagement (likes, retweets etc). The winning team will each win a Tata Nano.


  • The most widely spoken language is Hindi, but there are over 438 official languages in India
  • Some are concerned that traditional values are being eroded by exposure to western cultures
  • The Indian government is starting to censor various aspects of the internet in accordance with cultural norms, such as the demand that people do not blaspheme.

The Economist estimates that 438 official ‘mother tongue’ languages are spoken in India (the unofficial number varies hugely). The most widely spoken is Hindi; Google launched its Translator in Hindi in 2007, and its Hindi portal in 2009. In September 2011, Twitter launched its Twitter portal in Hindi. Hindi blogging is also on the up, with IndiBlogger hosting 1500 blogs in Hindi.

The big social networks are starting to roll out their offerings in other Indian languages: Google now offers search in eight other Indian languages including Punjabi and Bengali; and Facebook is also available in eight languages on mobile.

“Analysts at Gartner are not sure that social media growth in India will be as strong as other nations anyway, primarily due to the desire for privacy.”

Traditional Indian cultural values, such as gender specific roles, the caste system and strong family ties, still exist, but are coming under pressure. Some say that this is the result of a globalised economy and the exposure to the west which the youth have gained while working in call centre environments. It’s easy to see how increasing use of global social media sites would increase this western influence and therefore weaken these traditional influences further. But, analysts at Gartner are not sure that social media growth in India will be as strong as other nations anyway, primarily due to the desire for privacy.

Additionally, the Indian government is beginning to censor the Internet. The Information Technology act compels search engines and internet service providers to delete disparaging or blasphemous posts within 48 hours of a complaint. It has also banned Pastebin and Vimeo for allegedly posting copyrighted material.

TranslateMedia provide professional Hindi to English translation services for some of the  world’s multinational corporations.

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