Everybody’s talking about the new Internet revolution, Web 2.0, where most of a website’s content comes from its users rather than its owners. Spearheading this movement are social networking sites that have become household names – Orkut, MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr – with subscribers numbering in the millions. Where does India figure? Has social networking caught on here?
Has social networking won India over?
A net-savvy gang of teens would say a rousing ‘yes’. So would many geeks. Others would raise a sceptical eyebrow, while most would probably look blank!
Orkut’s Indian success story has spurred the growth of several India-based clones, such as Minglebox, Yaari, Jhoom, and DesiMartini, all primarily youth-oriented. But apart from youngsters, how relevant is social networking in India? Here’s what the figures* say.
34% of Indians go online only to read their e-mail.
21% are there for no specific reasons.
19% are ‘tech geeks’.
Many use the Net primarily for school or college projects.
From another report by MSN, titled Blogging India,
only 14% of Net users actively blog.
42% log on to update themselves on world events.
49% seek entertainment or read blogs by business leaders.
What’s keeping India back?
Avnish Bajaj, MD of Matrix India, a venture-capital firm, in an interview with The Hindu ‘s Business Line said that sheer inconvenience, due to low Internet penetration, and slow connections are primary factors. “Whereas in the US, 150 million households have broadband access all around the clock, sitting at home… where is that happening in India? Do you think a person will go to a cyber café… to discuss everything about their life?”
Then there’s culture. The West has a culture of ‘loners’, where individuals seek common platforms on the Net to express themselves. This need is not so pronounced in India, where familial and social bonds are very strong.
Still, there are tiny signs of change. Orkut, with 14.6% Indian subscribers, now features Indian faces on its home page.
When will it all come together?
When sites begin to deliver value; when networking will empower the ordinary Indian in his offline activities. This means moving beyond friendship/dating sites to new ideas – job search sites with a strong social networking concept such as Linkedin, diverse professional/hobby sites, and parenting networks. In short, anything that will pull together an online community. In 3-5 years from now, when infrastructure catches up, concepts like these could well take off in a big way.
Why do you think Indians are averse to networking? What are areas of interest that could bring sizeable numbers of Indians together online? Can we do more than just socialize on social networks? Do share your views with us and other readers.
(Sources: WatBlog, Alexa)