BuzzFeeds’s Jonah Peretti announced in March that the company would soon be expanding into India with an office opening in Mumbai, and the creation of a Facebook page – BuzzFeed India – on May 2nd suggests the launch is imminent.
But it’s not the first digitally-native publisher to expand into South Asian territory.
All three launches represent the growing amount of traffic these publishers get from Indian IP addresses.
Here, four charts explain some of the reasons behind the recent expansion into Indian terrain.
1. There are 125 million English speakers in India
Rank countries by total number of English speakers and India comes in second place with 125.25 million, to the USA’s 298 million. Data from the 2005 India Human Development Survey reveals that among households surveyed, five percent of Indian men speak fluent English and 28 percent speak at least some. Amongst women, three percent speak fluently, 17 percent speak at least some.
2. The number of internet users is growing
The number of internet users in India is also rising rapidly. From 1998 to 2001, there were less than 10 million online. During the early 2000s that figure grew to around 40 million, where it remained relatively constant until it jumped from 2007 onwards (data for 2008 and 2011 missing). In 2012 there were 137 million internet users in the country.
3. Internet penetration is growing
The growing number of internet users is somewhat to be expected given India’s growing population. But even as a percentage of total population, internet use is on the up – from 0.5 percent at the turn of the millennium to 11.4 percent in 2012.
4. The Indian middle class is growing
By 2025, over 291 million people are predicted to move from “desperate poverty to a more sustainable life and India’s middle class will swell by over 10 times from its current size of 50 million to 583 million,” says a report on the rise of India’s consumer market by McKinsey & Company. And as more of the middle class become connected via mobile phones and the internet, so does the potential audience for digital publishing.
For American-born companies like BuzzFeed, branching out to other English-speaking countries is, to some extent, much easier than launching in countries where English isn’t the mother tongue. Current staff members can be seconded to help out with English-language launches and potential new staff will already be well aware of BuzzFeed or Quartz’ editorial tone and style.
It’s a traditional move for many publishers boosted by the fact that there is obviously a thirst for English-language news and entertainment in India.
Note: Paul Lomax, CTO of Dennis Publishing made a valid point about the Indian advertising market being much harder to capture than Indian audiences. It's a very salient point, although Jasper's take is that arguably many publishers (if they're being run like tech companies as an increasing number are) will worry about building an audience first and monetising later.