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Ten Ways the Internet Has Changed India Forever

Let us begin with three mind-blowing facts: 1) India now has the third highest number of internet users in the world, link behind China and the U.S.; 2) India ranks 164th in the world in terms of internet penetration, drugs with less than 13 percent of the population online; and 3) internet usage in the country is now growing by a stunning 30 percent per year. But what does all this mean? Like it or not, the internet is transforming our nation in ways both big and small. Here are some of the top ways it’s doing so:

Keep in touch

Indians wrote the book on close-knit families, and now, with emails, online messages, text chats and video calls, we can be even closer (what’s that groan I just heard from half a billion smothered offspring?).  Long-distance relationships no longer involve weeks of awaiting snail mail. “I have six sisters and it’s now so much easier to keep in touch via email, chat or Skype. We even have a What’sApp group that helps transcend the time differences,” says Marise D’Souza, whose siblings live in Canada and Australia.

Click & Shop

With the ease and ubiquity of e-commerce in India, we no longer have to shop till we drop because chances are we’re already seated or reclining when we make our online purchases. Of the 150 million internet users in India, nearly 60 million are shopping-crazed women (shoot me for the stereotype, but we all know it’s true).  Google India recently reported that the top searched categories were apparel and accessories. Nicole Pavri finds that the “choice available online coupled with home delivery” trumps dashing to stores, waiting in queues for payments and the disappointment of finding your selected size out of stock.


News Bytes

In many parts of the world, if you still get most of your news from printed newspapers you’re pretty much a dinosaur. Perhaps we’re not quite there yet in India, but I would not be surprise if you, dear reader, are reading this sentence on your laptop, I-Pad or shiny new Micromax phone. That’s the future folks, here and everywhere. In Goa, online news forums like Goanet and Saligaonet provide even village-specific news, all just a click away. Saligao resident Ashley Delaney says, “Saligaonet started as a news bulletin to keep people informed, but has now graduated to a full-fledged discussion board with the occasional birth and death announcements.”


Marry Me

Meddling parents may not be too happy about it, but the net is also transforming the way we Indians find our life partners. Moving up from the gossipy local matchmaker and strangely-worded ads in newspaper columns, youngsters are wresting as much freedom as they can by searching for love online. Research has shown that Indian online matrimonial services have helped many of the 25 million Indian diaspora living outside the country to connect with each other and singles back in the motherland.


TV, Movies and Music

Nowadays, you can watch your favourite American shows before they’re broadcast on television in India, or listen to any kind of music till your heart’s content. Millions of Indians are downloading movies and music for free – not a good thing considering that high-quality entertainment costs money to produce (how will that quality be maintained if it’s all for free?). Morality aside, most of us simply ignore the hoopla about piracy and hit the download button. And if you make a video that gets popular enough, you could get yourself a slot on TV, become a sensation and drink yourself silly, à la Justin Bieber.



Even if you were conceived via artificial insemination, chances are there was at least some sex involved (I won’t spell it out, but I’m talking here about seed extraction). My point is there’s no ignoring sex. No one would bet against the internet having a hand in a few dirty MLAs engaging in virtual voyeurism in the Karnataka Assembly. That racy Indian comic strip involving Savita Bhabhi was seen by many lakhs of eyeballs before the internet morality police succeeded in removing it.



The internet is making confident strides into employment territory, a top worry in India. From completing background checks on companies and prospective employees, and uploading applications online to head hunting and actual on-the-job research, zeroing in on the ultimate placement is easier with the internet. Getting a great job is another matter altogether. Vikas Pandey found a vacancy at BBC Monitoring online and has climbed the ladder to now become one of its main Asia editors.



The one thing many Indian parents hold more valuable than a job abroad is a certificate from an educational institute overseas, never mind if the university ranked pretty low on some other nation’s performance chart. A study by the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore found a soaring 256 per cent increase in the number of Indians going abroad to study, from 53,266 in 2000 to 189,629 in 2009. Some may say the rise is due to some sudden surge of Indian cravings for burgers, pizza and shepherd’s pie. I say it’s because of the easy availability of online data about schools.


Travel forums

Internet evaluations (58 per cent) and travel reviews (53 per cent) had a huge impact on choice of vacation destinations in India, according to a Text100 Global Communication survey. Many are dispensing with ‘summer holidays at the ancestral home’ or 20-pax tour companies and discovering places across the globe thanks to the wonder of online forums. “The world is literally at your fingertips,” says avid traveler Mark Pinto.


I need surgery? Really?

Before the internet age, it was easy for quacks to prescribe useless medication and conniving doctors to suggest unnecessary operations. Today, double checking your prescription, your prognosis and your recommended treatment has never been easier. I just heard of a gentleman who was told he needed back surgery within 10 days and when he went online he learned the proper thing to do is wait to see if the condition gets better on its own. Sure enough, it did. Let’s face it. Google is the enemy of fraudulent, surgery-happy doctors.