Do You Speak Indian?

The Key Drivers of the India Content Landscape

December 24, 2018

The Desi Marketing Project

Editor’s Note: This guest post is the first in an occasional series called The Desi Marketing Project, which will focus on content marketing in India. This post was contributed by Jessie Paul, CEO of Paul Writer, a B2B advertising agency in Bangalore.  

Ok, you’re right, there’s no such language as Indian. Did you know that India is estimated to be the second largest English-speaking country? Yep, right behind the United States, with around 10% of the population claiming it as one of their top three languages.

It’s true that more people consume the internet in an Indian language than in English. But the educated and affluent mirror global trends in terms of consumption, and English is their primary language of consumption.

At Paul Writer we work with brands and marketers across the spectrum, and as I struggled with structuring the so many things that make content in India so special, I fell back on that hardy marketing tool: the 4Ps. So here goes.


A billion people, which is the approximate population of India, is a very attractive market. However these eyeballs spend only 4 hours, 34 minutes each day watching, streaming, reading and listening to media unlike Americans who spend 11 hours doing the same thing, according to eMarketer. More than half of this media time is spent watching TV.

Video is the poster-child of 2018. It cuts across language and literacy barriers to connect with its audience. Binge watching and social media are updates are often done during the long commutes. Video is part of every marketers’ arsenal these days with it being rated highly for both views and demand generation. IGTV is relatively new but seeing a lot of brand interest. For younger audiences memes are very popular. B2B customers are more likely to engage with video on LinkedIn.

While social media has large number of users, penetration in terms of percentages still lags most of the world as not everyone in India has access to the internet.

Earlier this year we surveyed 163 senior marketers and communication professionals earlier to create the Red Book of Content Marketing in association with Yorke Communications. In the B2B context Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube were considered the most relevant. With 50 million users LinkedIn has a sizeable penetration in this market.


India is the land of long commutes, and most people are glued to their phones during their hour-long trek to work or school. Research for big investments, such as a car, takes place during the weekends and at night, so it is important to have apps that can help with this. The Indian smartphone user spends up to three hours on apps and 70% of internet time is consumed in entertainment and social networking.

From a business perspective, it therefore makes sense to be present on social media and have an app. Moreover, bandwidth speeds are challenging outside the main cities, so marketers should invest in Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) that provide the functionality of apps without having to download one. Content like gifs and videos have to be able to function not just on 4G but on 2G too.


There are as many or more cultural nuances as well, with each language and region having its own deities, holidays, movie stars and cuisines. If I compare India with the U.S. on the Hofstede model (,the-usa/), the stark differences are that as a whole we accept hierarchy and a top-down structure. In short, India is far more collectivist and considerably more restrained in terms of gratifying desires. Why does this matter?  Because content that appeals to the vast majority of Americans, say by asking them to “indulge” will appeal to a far smaller percentage in India, where culturally we are taught that it is somehow wrong to indulge in an unrestrained way. Or stories that position the individual as the supreme decision maker will resonate less than one which show family involvement, which is the reality for big purchases like a home or a car in India.


Indian smartphone users have upwards of 70 apps on their phones — India is second globally in terms of number of downloads but 30th in monetization. Paying for content is not widespread, partly due to the effect of India being a low-cost economy. India is a value economy with customers hoping to extract maximum benefits from their spend. Free and freemium have worked well for brands, and the most successful have been able to persuade the users to pay a premium for additional or better content.

To summarize my take on the 4Ps of India — think mobile, think low bandwidth, think local language, and think engagement.

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