Attributed To: Asif Mohamed,Co-founder & CTO of Momspresso
Even with the media boom in the country, tier 2 and 3 cities in India have largely been in the proverbial ‘Media Dark’. Lack of representation of these cities in the traditional media has, for ages, kept people, especially women, from sharing their stories with the rest of the country. In the age of the internet too, women in non-urban cities have remained disconnected from the digital world to a large extent.
In fact, studies suggest that men dominate internet usage in India at 71 percent to women’s 29 percent. Further, only 43 percent of women in India own mobile phones and of those, a majority of women lack the ability to carry out basic tasks like reading messages or dialing a number.
This is the current stark reality of the internet and media usage by women in India. However, the present scenario is set to change in a major way and fortunately, for the better.
The proliferation of digital education in India is currently leading a change in the internet consumption trends. Thanks to digital education spreading rapidly among all segments of India and the government’s on-going emphasis on creating a truly ‘Digital India’, it is estimated that women internet users will increase from 130 million in 2016 to 300 million in 2021.
However, digital education and widespread uptake of strong data connections won’t be the only factors contributing to the increase in the use of digital media by women. A rise in vernacular content on online platforms is now allowing women from tier 2 and 3 cities to consume more online content and is in fact, piquing their curiosity and encouraging them to use such platforms to voice their own opinions and feelings with greater enthusiasm than ever before.
In fact, a perfect corroboration of this claim is the fact that platforms such as Momspresso are getting a lion’s share of their users from non-metro cities such as Lucknow. Further, their page views for Hindi content have significantly crossed those for English. The platform is now branching out in a big way into regional content in languages such as Marathi, Bengali, Tamil and Telugu as this is where it is receiving maximum traction from.
But what exactly are the benefits of such digital education and the rise in vernacular content on online Indian platforms?
When women receive ample education about the internet and its use cases, it benefits them in two major ways. The most important benefit of being active on the internet is that women are able to express themselves through platforms that feature like-minded women who speak each other’s language.
Women can take to such blogging platforms to feel heard and understood and even discuss their personal and health-related problems that they may not be able to talk about openly otherwise. With the rise of vernacular language content, they can use their preferred language to clear queries and gather opinions about several topics such as motherhood, babies, marriage and more.
Several women are already becoming regular bloggers who write about their experiences and opinions in their vernacular languages, helping other women feel like they have an online family that empathizes with their everyday issues. Through content creation and consumption in the language they are most comfortable with, women have created a community that supports them in multiple languages and content formats.
Online content platforms allow users to create and consume content in multiple languages as well as text, video and audio format. Apart from this, they form support groups that allow women to express themselves in more than one way and seek solace in their online communities, if they find none within their families and friend circles.
The internet is further empowering women by offering them unique opportunities to earn money without having to leave their homes. Mothers and wives who earlier did not possess the means to earn, now have several such opportunities at their disposal. The internet provides earning opportunities to women in multiple ways including content creation, surveys, product reviews, paid meet-ups organized by brands, translations and selling products.
While online content platforms are allowing women in non-metros to earn through brand-sponsored campaigns in the form of text, videos and audio blogs, other organizations are allowing them to sell their products in a simple way. For instance, GoCoop allows cooperatives and artisans in the rural areas to sell their products across the country. Further, to enable skilled artisans to sell directly to Indian and global consumers and earn better, CraftsBazaar was launched in 2016 in Bengaluru and crossed Rs 1 crore in revenue in its first year.
Such platforms utilize the power of community and vernacular languages in order to empower women and allow them to showcase their skills on public platforms at a national or even global level. The internet is and will continue to be instrumental in the growth of such platforms and the subsequent empowerment of India's citizens, with vernacular content playing the part of the perfect engine for such growth.