Non-metros are emerging as the new superstars. Non-metros (India 2) are catching up with metros (India 1) in terms of internet usage. The three key pillars of voice, vernacular, and video are going from strength to strength in India’s Tier 2/3 cities. In auto and tech categories, non-metros have left metros far behind in terms of search volume, and in almost every category the growth rates for search queries are far higher for non-metros as compared to metros. Local language searches too are slowly but surely rising throughout the country.
I found the nomenclaturisation of non-metros as India 2 and metros as India 1 interesting and intriguing especially if ‘2’ is already inching ahead of ‘1’. We have, over the years, in advertising and media referred to the metros, or the more urbanised part of the country as ‘India’ while referring to the non-metro hinterland and the rural mass as ‘Bharat’. To me India versus Bharat makes still for a more meaningful comparison rather than India 1 and India 2. Somehow, the ‘1’ and ‘2’ don’t really gel. Especially when two out of three searches are coming from outside the top 6 metros, from Bharat. Also, there has been a 10x surge in local language searches. Which is saying a lot.
India had 400+ million people online in 2017. The number grew to 650 million by 2020. There were 330 million connected smartphone users in 2017; today there are 500 million. The growth has been staggering.
The Google Report says that non-metros are accelerating to overtake metros.
- Almost 60% of all auto related queries emanate from outside Tier 1 states
- 50% of all non-English searches are in languages other than Hindi
Growth of banking services too is driving greater need for digital interactions
- There has been a 2x growth in queries for ‘online savings account opening’
- A 3x growth has been witnessed in queries for ‘savings account interest rate’
- A 1.5x growth has been registered in queries for ‘online savings account’
- And there has been a substantial 41% increase in queries for ‘saving accounts’
India and Bharat are getting richer, more money-minded and digital savvy!
It was in 2017 that Google started to witness the steady rise of e-commerce, as more and more women and residents from non-metros started to come online, and indulge in shopping. That year witnessed a 41% increase in shopping queries. Digital spending in 2020 was expected to have grown 2.5x from US$40bn to US$100bn led by e-commerce (US$18-45bn). Women shoppers in 2020 increased 2.5x and 35+ shoppers increased more than 3x compared to 2017. This is heartening stuff, for sure.
The Google Report has some very useful data points for the fashion industry. Google says that 63% of apparel searches are coming from the top 8 cities of India, while growth is being driven by the non-metro cities, which are growing at 75%. Highest growth markets, as per Google, are Lucknow, Jaipur, Indore and Chandigarh. Interestingly, one out of three fashion-related queries are research-based, i.e. ‘How to’ or ‘What are’ queries. 2020 saw a 53% growth in fashion e-commerce queries. Google stats show that 78% online shoppers in India have now purchased fashion and lifestyle products through e-commerce websites in their lifetime. Those are very good penetration levels, for sure. There have also been 38% growth in apparel queries, which is the largest share of fashion searches.
There is more on e-commerce. Online shopping is growing beyond the 8 metros, and the use of local languages is going up too. By 2020, more than 50% of the total online shopper base was from non-metros. Back in 2017, 45% shopping queries came from non-metros, versus 36% in 2016; Highest volume of searches back then were from Lucknow, Jaipur and Indore. 2020 did see 20% growth in searches from Top 8 metros. But growth in searches from other cities was a more handsome 41%. Fastest growing non-metro cities in 2020 are: Guwahati, Patna, Chandigarh and Indore. The Google Report shows 61% growth for searches in Indian languages; 88% of these queries come from mobile. And yes, Hindi searches commanded the highest share of Indian language searches, followed by Marathi and Tamil.
Non-metros are also swiftly waking up to the power of online education. For online education, 44% of searches were from beyond the Top 6 metros in 2017 compared to 35% in 2016. Cities like Patna, Kota, Guwahati, Allahabad had grown more than of 100% even back then, showing that small-town India wants to ‘get-ahead’ and is knowledge hungry.
By 2021, Google predicts:
- Online education will become a $2 billion industry, growing at 8x
- Paid user base will grow 6x from 1.6 million users to 9.6 million users
- There has been 2x growth in online searches around education in the last two years. The trend will hopefully keep growing
- A 4x growth in online educational content consumption on YouTube
In FMCG too, digital is making rapid inroads.
- 70% of FMCG searches are coming from outside of the Top 6 metros
- 80% of searches for recipes are coming from outside of the Top 6 metros. That should be useful information for the likes of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor
- There has been a 100% growth in search in Indian languages
- 3 out of 4 Indian language searches are for Hindi content
- Top searched ‘Indic’ words in FMCG are: Hair Style, Beauty Tips and Recipes
As sports moves from the courts to our palms, 55% of gaming searches now come from outside of the Top 6 Metros. I am sure Dream11’s strategies too now need a non-metro slant in both creative and media. Even in headhunting and matchmaking, Google Search has witnessed 65% more growth from non metros than from metros. There has also been a 2.4x growth in searches for jobs from Tier 2 cities. In Entertainment too, there has been a 100% growth in regional entertainment watch-time on YouTube. Almost in sync, there has been 71% growth in non-metro India for VoD.
Technology seems to be impacting Bharat even more than India. Consumers in non-metros embraced the increased internet penetration by enthusiastically researching and buying tech. Agra, Lucknow, Patna, Jaipur and Indore drove the growth in Search queries across laptops, smartphones, and consumer electronics. Queries from non-metros are growing at over 4x the pace of the metros. Even in telecom, it is the hinterland that is driving demand. Most internet traffic now comes from outside the Top 8 cities, thanks to 4G, as per Google. 43% queries for internet services today come from outside the Top 8 cities, growing at 2x the national average. 40% of mobile related searches came from outside the Top 8 cites. Hindi searches for top 4 telcos grew to 5x of the volume during 2016. The trend seems to be sustaining. 30% higher video watch-time on 4G comes from cities outside of the Top 8 as compared to the Top 8. Over 60% internet speed related searches, in fact, came from cities and towns outside of the Top 8, with a 50% growth in search volume. So the consumer from Bharat is also becoming more discerning.
Even in travel, smaller towns are becoming as digital savvy. People from tier 2 cities are increasingly using the internet to make travel plans.
In Tier 2 cities:
- 22% jump in air queries
- 20% growth in holidays
- 10% hike in hotel searches
- 11% growth in cab services
To better understand references to tiers and types in the Google Report, Top 6 cities or Top 6 metros or Tier 1 cities or metros are Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. Tier 2 is really everything outside of the Top 8 cities. And wherever referred to, Top 8 cities or Top 8 metros are Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.
That’s all for now. This concludes the second part of this 3-part series on Google’s Year in Search Report. The last part will be carried later in the week.
The author is chairman, Mogaé Media
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