Many Indian government departments tend to use Google’s free Gmail accounts and its security agencies have demanded access to Gmail user data in the country. This makes sense. After all, India has the highest percentage of Gmail users in the world, more than twice the figure for even the United States.
According to data from the Reston, Virginia-based digital marketing intelligence firm Comscore, Gmail’s market penetration in India stands at 62%, the highest in the world, far above the second ranked Brazil, which is at 41%. The corresponding figure for the US is 29%.
Andrew Lipsman, Comscore’s vice-pesident for Industry Analysis, said, “Penetration is defined as the percentage of total home and work Internet users who engage in a particular behaviour. I am not surprised that India is the leader for Gmail penetration given the market’s general affinity for Google-branded products and services.”
Gmail is obviously the number one webmail provider in India, and is at number two in the US. According to Lipsman, “Global Gmail usage is up 32% in the past year. It is up 24% in the US, 91% in Brazil and 16% in India.”
The popularity of Gmail in India could also have been a factor behind the early success in India of Google’s social networking initiative, Google+, as Google’s tussle with Facebook for dominance of the Indian market, one of the hottest globally, continues.
According to Comscore, while the US accounted for nearly 5.3 million of Google+’s audience since its late June launch, India is ranked a “strong” second with about 2.8 million visitors.
It’s also indicative of how the Indian market is evolving. In mid-2010, the social networking platform with the largest user base in India was Orkut, with 19.7 million.
At that time, Facebook trailed Orkut by over one million users. By the end of June this year, Facebook’s usage had jumped to 34.5 million with Orkut dropping to 13.4 million, going by Comscore statistics.
Orkut, of course, is the original Google social media platform, predating even the failed Google Buzz network. Google did not comment on its plans for Google+ in India.
However, a spokesperson said, “We’re committed to making the web more people-centric, and we’ve been gradually giving people new ways to share things and interact within our products.”
Facebook didn’t comment on Google+’s early success in India, saying that it was “hard to comment” on the issue since Google+ had a “very different, invite-only model”.
But Facebook’s Global Communications Manager Kumiko Hidaka stressed the importance of India to the company. She said, “As a global company, we are very focused on every region and India remains very important to us.”
She pointed out that Facebook had opened an operations office in India last year and established a “presence on the ground” there.