Lies, damned lies, and statistics, Mark Twain had said about the way numbers are used to win arguments. Twain died more than a century ago, but if he were still around, he could have as well been talking of India’s Internet user base. 

That India has one of the fastest growing Internet user bases in the world, is an established fact. But how many Internet users does India really have? No one seems to agree.

Let’s look at some of the stats out there.

On Saturday, India’s former telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the country has 40 crore Internet connections, 60% of which are mobile based. 

However, just a month before he said this, the telecom ministry itself had reported to the Indian Parliament that the country had 34.26 crore Internet subscribers.

Now, connections and subscribers are two different things. In industry, the commonly accepted logic is that there are at least four subscribers per broadband connection. So 34.26 crore subscribers over 40 crore connections doesn’t really add up.

Meanwhile, in June, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said in a release that as of December 2015, the number of Internet users in the country had surpassed the 400 million mark.

Now, what will you call that? Leap of faith or leapfrogging?

Separately, Internet Live Stats, a portal run by a team of researchers and analysts spread across the world, which tracks data on Internet users, says that India has 46.21 crore Internet users

In fact, if their data is to be believed, in the last one year, India has upped its Internet user base by more than 30%, the fastest for any country.

Moreover, if these figures are anything to go by, it means two things. First, India is far outpacing China and the US in terms of the number of people coming online, indicating the possible traction that the market could gain. On the flipside, it means that India remains one of the least connected large economies.

But how many real Internet users does India have?

Last week, Deepak Abbot, a former head of mobile growth at Times Internet said in a post that as of now, only about 6 crore people in the country are

meaningfully connected to the Internet, and that by 2018, he expects the figure to reach 22 crore.  

Abbot says that while arriving at this figure, he has only considered those people who at least have a stable 3G connection, use 1 GB data every month and spend money online, thus, contributing to the Internet economy.  

So, just how many Internet users does India really have?

Don’t ask Mark Twain. He’s long dead.

(Aman Malik is Senior Assistant Editor at VCCircle.)

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