Ten years ago, when YouTube first launched in India, we probably didn’t expect to turn into a "video fist Internet country".
But Rajan Anandan, VP South East Asia, and India, Google predicts a massive growth. "By 2020 India will have over 650 million internet users and at current growth rate over 500 million unique Indians will consume online videos in India," he told a packed audience.
The milestone was celebrated in Mumbai at the YouTube Brandcast – the Google-owned video platform’s big annual showcase for media executives and advertisers. The event was aimed at getting more brands to spend more on online video and less on TV.
Like all other corporate events, as the evening proceeded what followed was endless PowerPoint presentations and numbers that indicate that YouTube has achieved unthinkable heights in India. There were many self-congratulatory applause and more data from 'outsider' like Neilson, ICICI, Titan and L’Oréal to corroborate the massive impact YouTube has created. Well, to be fair, the applause isn’t completely undeserved. After all, the video behemoth has 225 million monthly active users and is growing at a rapid speed catering to marketers, advertisers, and audiences alike.
The event gave a deep insight into how YouTube has shaped the Indians’ habits in the last ten years.
Here are a few takeaways:
1. India has become a video first internet country, claimed Rajan Anandan, VP South East Asia, and India, Google. Presumably, in layman's terms, it means that we like to consume our content in video format more than any other format. Rajan said, "There were less than 50 million internet users before 2008 when YouTube launched in India."
"By 2020 India will have over 650 million internet users and at current growth rate over 500 million unique Indians will consume online videos in India," he predicted.
In the ten years of YouTube being in the Indian market, things have changed drastically. With affordable data plans, increasing penetration of smartphones along with a variety of content on YouTube, the video platform now reaches 85 percent of all highly engaged Internet users, in the 18 years and above age-group, in India.
2. 71 percent of online viewers go to the YouTube to learn something: Sapna Chadha, Director Marketing, South East Asia and India, Google said that "...from millennials to working parents to professionals, all go to YouTube with intent. Our research shows that the way people use YouTube is to learn something new. From how to tie a tie to how to become India's next big fashion designer, 71 percent of online viewers go to YouTube to learn something."
3. YouTube is changing the cultural landscape of India: Mobile videos are exploding in India and it is unlocking creativity and self-expression of multiple generations. Global trends can now start from anywhere.
Sapna Chadha explained that videos are also transcending geographical and cultural boundaries thanks to YouTube. Last year, in August, the video of the Spanish song Despacito, became the most viewed video on YouTube with five billion views. It set every single milestone in record time. People have watched the video of Despacito 28 million times per day. It's unlike anything that has ever been seen before in terms of scale and spread and it became the most viewed video in 45 countries, including right here in India.
Despacito isn't a one-hit wonder, be it Gangnam Style or Kolaveri Di, there are several other examples that tell us, that these videos overstep cultural borders and not only appeal to varied audiences but also inspire them to replicate these songs. Despacito inspired covers in Indian classical to Bharatnatyam. There were many renditions of this song in Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and several of those videos have garnered millions of views of their own.
4. Boasting Indian entertainment industry: From trailers to movie clips to song launches, YouTube has become an indispensable part of the Indian film industry. Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube said during Brandcast,"… of all the different ways in which people are choosing to spend their time, why are they choosing YouTube? For many, it is the Bollywood songs. It is the films that form the heart of India’s entertainment. That’s been massively popular on YouTube. In fact, last year’s trailer of Kabali had more views than the official trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Kabali received 35 million views."
In addition to Bollywood videos over the past few years, we have seen many popular YouTube video creators whose careers were born on YouTube. Creators like Bhuvan Bam, who is famous for BB Ki Vines joined YouTube three years ago, uploading short sketches and songs from his nexus phone. Today he has over 6.6 million subscribers and his videos are consistently one of the top trending videos in India.
5. Most Indians view non-English videos on YouTube: During Brandcast, Rajan also said, “…Less than 20 percent of India's population is proficient in English. So not surprisingly over 90 percent of time spent on digital videos in India is not in English. It’s in Hindi, Tamil, and Kannada etc... It is in all the local languages that the hundreds of millions of internet users are proficient in."
6. Metros aren't the largest video content consumers anymore: At the event, Kyncl also quoted a research by Ipsos, Video Landscape research, that stated that 65 percent online video viewers subscribe to channels on YouTube and 85 percent of them watch a new video within two days of being uploaded.
Kyncl also stated that "over 60 percent of our watch time is coming from outside six large metro cities in India." A fact that was supported by Prasun Basu, President of Neilson South-Asia, who said, "The small town which used to be smaller than metro in terms of engagement has now grown faster and are at par with metros." Basu also stated that the “growth (in terms of engagement) is happening more in the teens and surprisingly in the 40 plus demographics as well."
With research showing that 7 out of 10 people relate to YouTubers more than traditional celebrities, there is no denying that the impact that the video platform has on our everyday lives is huge. YouTube's journey has not only been deeply linked to the Internet growth story of India but also to video consumption habits of Indians.