Year in Search 2020 — India’s Determined Progress

Sapna Chadha / March 2021

The events of last year set in motion a tremendous amount of change — from shifts in our daily routines to our relationship with technology. In India, the internet evolved from a platform for communication and engagement to a lifeline — making it more important than ever. As a result, there was a 42% increase of daily heavy internet users,1 as Indians leaned into their innate curiosity and inquisitiveness to heal, recuperate and find solutions to problems they never thought they would encounter.

While making their desire for personalized solutions clear, Indians showed an increased willingness to adapt to change. What we saw last year shows the ambition, flexibility, pride and extreme innovation-driven momentum toward India's pursuit of progress. It’s a call to all of us as businesses to reexamine our priorities and evolve at the pace of our consumers while finding meaningful ways to contribute to India’s growth.

With Google’s “Year in Search 2020 — India’s Determined Progress,” we offer a sneak peek into what matters most to consumers to help marketers better serve Indians in their search for a better tomorrow.

1. Local first

In our regional report, we described the new expectation that Indians have of brands to fit into their lives. This is particularly true of the growing cohort of internet users who choose to consume content in their mother tongue or use audio and video to find information. In India, 90% of internet users prefer to use their local language to search and carry out tasks online. Last year, search queries for “translate” increased by over 50%, while 50% of Google Discover users consumed content in Indian languages. With rapid digitization and new internet users growing, the “3Vs”: voice, video and vernacular, have become essential to the way Indians interact with the internet.

2. Value redefined

With a change in priorities, the way people define “essential items” has changed. As people plan for the future, more informed customers are searching for low-involvement products and to get the most value for their money. This change in mindset has led to digital becoming the preferred channel — not only for discovery, comparisons, and quotes — but also for sales. We saw a year-over-year (YoY) increase in search queries for “second hand laptops” (+60%) and “second hand car” (+30%) as people searched for ways to be more frugal at home. And search interest for “stock market” and “buy mutual funds” grew by 120% YoY and 50% YoY respectively, as people sought a means to feel more financially secure. We also saw searches for on-demand services, such as “online doctor consultations,” increase by 300%.2 Indians are reevaluating their priorities, keeping online options top-of-mind, and researching a wider variety of categories from essential products to high-involvement categories like finance and cars.

3. Learning anything, anywhere

2020 provided a unique challenge for a nation that deeply values holistic education. With schools and colleges shut down, Indians turned toward the digital platform to learn and upskill their lives — a trend we saw across APAC. As Indians turned to the internet to make their present lives easier and their future lives more sustainable, we saw over 70% YoY growth in search queries for “how to make an app” and interest in YouTube searches for “कोडिंग” (coding) increase by 2.3X YoY.

The internet has become the go-to destination for Indians to satiate their curiosity; they are learning how to create apps and new skincare routines and are looking for certificated courses to future-proof their careers. But we must also acknowledge that not everyone has access to an electronic device or the internet yet. We must work to address this digital divide so that every Indian has equal access to the learning and opportunities that technology provides.

COVID-19’s unprecedented disruption has challenged businesses to use every digital tool at their disposal and address the opportunities brought by online adoption. Whether it’s e-commerce helping people in rural India acquire vital goods, the digitization of industries that traditionally relied on offline sales or the pivot to “on-demand” experiences — India is experiencing rapid digital change.

The bottom line? The case for digital acceleration is indisputable, and the opportunity for brands to engage with customers online has never been timelier.

For more insights into the evolving behaviors of Indians, download our “Year in Search — India’s Determined Progress” report, or dive into our interactive regional trend report below.

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