Indian Internet’s Three Million Pageview Conundrum

For many years we have been trying very hard to unlock the potential in India's internet market. Beyond all the hype, the fact is that we have made little headway in realizing that dream. Even with the stellar growth numbers quoted year after year by IAMAI and other industry bodies, most individual internet properties seem to have a lot of trouble in growing, organically, beyond the three million page views in a day line in the sand.

The 3MM number is part pulled out of the hat and part anecdotal. It is the upper limit I have seen in standalone properties over the years, after which growth is really sluggish, unless considerable amount of money is spent in SEM to draw in the crowds. It may, of course, get bumped up by a million in the next couple of years, but the point I am making is that it is way too low to be even a hint of what is possible.

And the 3MM is a number that has vexed me for a while now, in trying to understand what will get it to up the ante in that number with the products that are there. And it is only recently it struck me that there is nothing wrong with the products per-se. They are all fine and in cases even too good for the audience to even appreciate them. The problem is with the language. The Indian internet is overwhelmingly English, while India is not.

Yes, the promise of local language internet has been there for a long time, but we have done little towards it. Most of the content there now is at best translations of existing English news content (since that is most readily available in a digitized form) or online versions of the few local language media houses that has aimed to go online with it. This is the classic chicken-and-egg problem in Indian vernacular internet.

Where this hooks up with the 3MM problem is at the point where new users who do not form part of the English internet demographic have nowhere to go and have nothing much to do other than follow on the casual, language-independent routes of internet usage in porn and social networking.

The conundrum, as mentioned in the title, is this: all the money that is being spent in Indian internet is spent in the 3MM band properties that target the Indian English internet. The growth in subscriber numbers are not going to see an equivalent growth in the 3MM properties, because they have little to offer beyond the usual for them. This is why the significant volume of investment that has gone into the English internet (citing the potential of the billion-strong populace) has seen little returns on that investment.

One of the things I am aiming to work towards with FrontierNxt is to fix this mismatch. It is going to be a long and arduous journey, using tools and methods that are far from what I have been used to in a market place that we all know little about.