India is home to a high number of native languages; the census reported more than 1,600 dialects spoken in the country, with 22 recognised official languages.
Google and KPMG found that Indian-language internet users numbered 234 million in 2016, far more than the 175 million English-language internet users, and they predict the number of Indian-language internet users will grow to 536 million by 2021, far outpacing the growth rate foreseen for English-language internet users.
That shift has been driven by several factors, according to the firms. Smartphones are increasingly being adopted by consumers outside of urban areas—a group less likely to speak either English or Hindi.
The government is also hastening the process with plans to invest more than $350 million in increasing digital literacy in rural areas. In addition, the drop in the cost of mobile date plans has made data-intensive behaviors like watching online videos easier than ever for consumers.
KPMG and Google expect that chat apps, digital entertainment and social media will each have least 300 million Indian-language users by 2021. Meanwhile, Indian-language internet users engaged in ecommerce will number 165 million by 2021, up from just 42 million in 2016.
Tech and ecommerce firms will need to continually invest in making their services available in a range of local languages. The need for more localized materials also extends to brands looking to advertise in India.