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India rises past the US to become the internet's second biggest user

India rises past the US to become the internet's second biggest user

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There's only one set of presentation slides I look forward to every year, and that's Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends report. In 2016, the highlight picked out by Meeker, partner at venture capital firm KPCB, is India's accelerating growth of user numbers in an otherwise decelerating market. She notes that, at 277 million, India's connected population is now greater than that of the United States and second only to China. This has come off the back of 40 percent growth over the past year, during which time the rest of the world has only inched up by 7 percent. India is now so big, in fact, that just by itself it adds 2 percentage points to the world's internet user growth.

India has been the next big opportunity for many years now, going as far back as Nokia's Asha series, which aimed to "connect the next billion" under Stephen Elop. Google picked up the chase for the next billion under Sundar Pichai, himself of Indian heritage, and Facebook's controversial initiative also focused on India. Most recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook was doing a tour of the country and announcing the setting up of an app development accelerator in Bangalore and a new research center in Hyderabad. All these efforts have been in anticipation of the present boom in internet use in the country.

India is a major component of the next billion users that everyone's chasing

Of course, the typical Indian internet user is a lot less affluent than his or her connected counterpart in the United States, however Indian customers are being sought so actively because, according to Meeker, new internet users are going to become increasingly hard to find in the future. Speaking at the Recode Conference, she notes that the next wave of internet users would come from poorer developing countries, places where the cost of a smartphone is a "material percentage of per capita income." Capturing them as an audience for services and a consumer base for devices like the iPhone is an even tougher challenge than India.

The full 213-page slide deck is well worth a browse for anyone even remotely interested in the internet and its relationship with global economic trends.