Web 2.0, India, and Other Emerging Economies

Web 2.0 everything-pr

The world is now more connected than at any time in history. From Mumbai to Minneapolis, people can now communicate on a level not even envisioned a few short decades ago. For many, the iconic name given to this new found “digital age”, as it is called, is Web 2.0. Many definitions have been given for the term, coined by Tim O’Reilly some years back, while others doubt even the existence of such a thing as a “next Web”, aptly so might add. For this writer (and former expert on all things Web 2.0), Web 2.0 never existed at all. However, regardless of what we call the spread of digital conversation, emerging enconomies around the world can and will certainly take advantage of the possibilities.

In an article I read earlier today, Tata Consultants performed a survey which revealed some interesting metrics with regard to India’s possibilites for growth in this “Web 2.0”,l or digital revolution. The survey, the newest of its kind (2009), showed (among other variables) that over 80 percent of India’s school aged children have access to mobile technology. Furthermore, it is becoming apparent that this demographic, the future of the digital realm, are making a shift toward online activity in both their social and academic endeavors. For the sake of brevity, this means a couple of things. First, the huge market represented by this generation in India is growing rapidly and is becoming an integral part of the world wide web. Secondly, from a career standpoint, student in India are on the threshold of gaining a technical advantage over similar groups with regard to both their expertise in all things digital, and in establishing their “position” in the overall hierarchy of the Web.

Somewhat complicated concepts I know, but the long and short of this argument is that India’s young people could edge ahead of other emerging groups as a force in both business and their “voice” in the overall world economy. Interestingly, at the onset of digital and traditional business engaging the rest of the world, many thought that China would be the sort of “El Dorado” of emerging markets. It is becoming clear now that the constraints on that sector of the web is causing a sort of “stagnation” of growth. China is for the most part only really emerging in more traditional sectors like manufacturing and “on the ground” business activity. Even in those sectors, the world’s most populated country has many issues curtailing true growth.

A PDF of the findings of TCS can be found here, and I urge everyone to look at the numbers and implications here. Much can be gleaned from studying the leadership India has shown in adjusting to emerging trends. In particlar, the reader should be concerned, or at least interested in the following aspects of this survey.

  • Information access
  • Social networking preferences
  • Youth and Technology
  • Future education mindset and Career interests

Of all the information in the report, perhaps the most interesting aspect is represented in the graph take from the PDF of TCS below. It reveals that the highest percentage of young Indian students gain access to the Web from school. Given other metrics, such as overall engagment and time spent on the Web, plus my own analysis of activity via Google Trends for Indian Internet users, it is evident that these Web users are taking greater advantage of the opportunities for learning, entertainment and possibly career building opportunity.

Acces metrics for India's student population

Acces metrics for India’s student population

This comprehensive survey and the ensuing report reveal much more about the habits of India’s Internet generation than any I have seen for any country. This says two things to me. First, TCS and other IT businesses are taking business seriously, obviously attempting to not only understand their own place in the world market, but also obviously doing the PR thing in promoting India’s relative technical expertise. Secondly, outsourcing is one of the primary B2B markets where India has a tactical advantage (this is so for many reasons), and TCS and others are attempting to diversify the market outside a US dependency (this is a subject for a later article). India, though somewhat underestimate as a market in the early “Web 2.0” movement, is now apparently the front runner among emerging nations in Internet savvy and market engagement.


Web 2.0 as a movement, if we can call it that, has been about the advancement of communication – the “conversation” as it is so often called. For most young people the Internet is primarily a conduit for entertainment in my opinion. Interestingly, this is true for students in Idia as well. There is however one apparent difference between the habits, concerns, and direction between say American students and those in India. This can be gleaned from the folling graph which shows an intrinsically different direction for India.

Students in India are concerned about the right things

Students in India are concerned about the right things

While not wholly conclusive, the report by TCS does indicate a likelihood. I could not find and comparative study for other countries on short notice, but we will attempt a comparative study soon. Even without correlative data, being something of an expert with regard to social media, networking, and also being tied into the conversation every day, the normative evidence is building that India is on the move. This is perhaps true because of an inherent social climate there among young people, but regardless of the reasons, it is clear that the same demographic here in Germany and the EU has no such affinity. This is supposition so far, but I believe it can be demonstrated. The reader (who is not from India) might ask, “So, even if this is true, what should be do about it?” Doing something about it is not the point obviously. Interacting and learning from the situation is fully the most important thing. In PR we see these trends all the time.

Corporations to small businesses still fail to see the real value of communication on this level. The learning aspect of this is not about getting more Twitter followers, as some big time PR companies assume, but rather about actually engaging people in real ways. We will talk more about these issues both in our white papers to come, and with regard to the most effective methods of utilizing the Web via other studies. For now, realizing what is possible, rather than thinking of this information as problematic, is what we are trying to achieve.