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Indians embrace digital to ‘future-proof’ their progress

The combination of the uncertainty of 2020 and the accelerated digital adoption in the year saw Indians leverage their time spent online for the determined pursuit of progress, states Google’s annual Year in Search report for the past year.  The Search data in the report, titled ‘India’s determined progress’, also confirms the geographical expansion of new digital users in tier 2/3/4 locations and rural India. This has led to an increase in the importance of the 3Vs--Voice, Video and Vernacular--a trend that was first established in 2017, for a wider variety of uses, underpinned by a preference for the mother tongue.

One of the clear shifts in user behaviour is demonstrated in a never-before upsurge in queries for “learn”, up more than 30 per cent YoY (Year on Year). This, ‘Learning anything, anywhere’, is one amongst the three major changes in user behaviour that have emerged based on search trends spanning Search and YouTube in 2020. 

The searches for learning went beyond academics, and focused on learning for career progression, upskilling, entrepreneurship, and supplementary income, with four in five people coming to YouTube to learn something new. Users were also concerned about the future of the economy and how it will impact their personal finances, and therefore, people were seeking more control over their future - with searches related to personal finance surging to a 50 per cent YoY growth for both “invest” and ‘buy mutual funds’.

The second big theme ‘Local first’ highlights the increase in the demand and consumption of both local language content and local information. Consequently, the year saw Google Translate being used over 17 Billion times to translate web pages into Indic languages. Additionally, over 90 per cent of YouTube users preferred to watch content in Indic languages. The year also saw a spike in demand for “local news” in order to stay tuned into developments in users’ immediate surroundings.  

The report also calls out a re-evaluation of what Indians considered essential giving rise to a new definition of ‘Value’. With health becoming a foremost concern, Indians adopted a new willingness  to try new things online with “online doctor consultations” searches growing at 300% growth in the last one year led by Manipur, Bihar and Karnataka. The report also captures big spikes in the on-demand economy going beyond the established categories and extending to cars, motorbikes, and Smart TVs. Demand for connected devices saw a massive surge with ‘second hand laptops’ recording a more than 60 percent increase in Search queries YoY. These user behaviours were coupled with their increasing comfort with transacting online with more than 60 per cent YoY in searches for “how to pay online”, compared to being flat last year.

Speaking about the Report, Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & VP, Google India, said, “2020 was a year of disruption, resilience, and adaptation, both for businesses and users. It has also been a catalyst for massive changes, both in consumer behaviours online and in how businesses have pivoted to digital. The momentum has now been set for expanding and deepening this transformation, and to rethink our business models, approach, solutions, marketing, and distribution to keep pace with India’s fast growing digital users.

Sharing insights for brands, Sapna Chadha, Senior Director of Marketing, Google India & Southeast Asia, said, “Our report is headlined by the fact that the Indian online user’s embrace of technology in 2020 has changed their behaviour, priorities and intent as consumers. Businesses too have needed to adapt to these cues. Going forward they will need to reshape their approaches and boundaries for customer engagement in order to build a consistent and positive brand experience both online and offline. Consumers are looking to meet more and more of their demands online, in their preferred languages, and amidst their individual areas of interests and needs, with brands supporting them in their search for a better tomorrow.” Sapna added.

Some of the top emerging trends from the Year in Search report are:

Learning anything, anywhere

  • 140 per cent growth in searches from across India for “work from home jobs” over 2019 
  • Over 85 per cent YoY growth in searches for “online course”, compared to flat growth in the previous YoY
  • Over 50 per cent YoY growth in Google searches for “certificate course”;
  • 65+ per cent YoY growth in searches for “how to sell online”;
  • 14x YoY increase in YouTube searches for “ऑनलाइन क्लास” (online class)


  • Over 90% of YouTube users prefer watching content in Indic languages
  • People used Google Translate 17 billion times to render web pages in Indian languages
  • 1/3rd of Google Assistant users in India are using it in an Indic language
  • 80% YoY increase in searches for “local news”
  • 4 out of 5 most searched  video series in 2020 were Indian content
  • 1.5x YoY increase in YouTube searches for “खेती”, compared to flat growth in the previous year

Value redefined

  • 50% of auto consumers — for both 4-wheelers and 2-wheelers — would consider “buying online” if given an option
  • 30% YoY growth in searches for “second-hand car”
  • 70% of parents interested in online children’s courses are willing to pay for it if they find it useful
  • More than 45% YoY growth in searches for “Online store”, compared to flat growth in previous year

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