Indians are increasingly becoming adept online, leveraging the Internet to navigate a hybrid lifestyle due to the impact of the Covid pandemic, according to the findings of Google’s annual Year in Search report for 2021.

“This year’s report is headlined by a surge in searches across a spectrum of existing and emerging trends, and provides a unique insight into the connected Indian’s preference for a digital-first life. As people become increasingly adept online, ‘search’ has become their ‘go-to’ for making sense of a hybrid world in which more and more services and solutions are also now online,” said Sapna Chadha, Vice-President, Marketing, Google India & Southeast Asia in a blog post. 

“Businesses will need to take a proactive role in responding to this consumer transition that’s well underway by providing seamless paths to purchase across online and otherwise. Along with convenience, brands will need to continuously build trust and confidence amongst their consumers as they make more choices and decisions online,” Chadha added. 

The accelerated expansion of the internet user base in India over the past two years has also led to a rise in new Google searches per day across user segments, channels and needs.

“Of the billions of searches we see every day, 15 per cent are brand new — from new user segments, across categories, and for all kinds of queries,” said Chadha.

Relying on digital

With mobility limited amid the pandemic, users showed an acceptance of a blended lifestyle, with an approximately 350 per cent growth in interest in “hybrid workplace”, alongside an 80 per cent increase in “online doctor consultation”. Users also showed an increasing interest in online commerce with 533 per cent growth in search interest for “D2C brands” and a 55 per cent increase in “virtual try on”.

Further, there was a 73 per cent growth in users asking for help in getting their phones set up, 43 per cent growth in “how to invest”, and 17 per cent higher searches for “sell online” than last year.

Making informed choices 

Indian users also leveraged ‘search’ to make more informed decisions, from online safety, misinformation to commerce. 

“As people increase their reliance on the internet for navigating a blended life, they are also proactively seeking reassurance on the torrent of information they access, and becoming more conscious about online safety in 2021,” said the report. 

The report showed an 80 per cent increase in searches for “is it true” on various aspects of fact-checking, misinformation and fake news in 2021. In addition, there is an increasing interest in privacy, with a 27 per cent increase in these searches, higher than the Asia Pacific growth rate of 20 per cent. 

In terms of online commerce, “with many more brands and businesses selling products online as part of the omni channel push, people are also extending their demand for authenticity across their purchase journey”, as per the report. There was an 80 per cent growth in searches for a “brand’s official store”, 38 per cent growth in search interest in “trusted website” and a 41 per cent increase in search interest in “which brand is good” as people looked to build their consideration set for brands.

New priorities

Indians are also increasingly prioritising health and welness amid the pandemic, apart from further prioritising quality time and family ties.

Users showed increased interest in health insurance for family, which grew by 44 per cent. Searches across physical, emotional and mental health wellbeing grew by 27 per cent in 2021. 

As an extension of these new priorities, interest also increased in sustainability. Search interest for conscious consumerism is on the rise with interest in ‘sustainable’ being the highest in the last five years, for “electric scooter” growing by 230 per cent, fair trade by 15 per cent and cycling by 41 per cent.

Users also showed a focus on finances, investment, jobs, and income. In particular, searches for “jobs for women” rose by 33 per cent and “loans for women” by 25 per cent. There was a 30 per cent increase in Searches for “women rights” and “equal pay”. 

Separately, search interest in “pet-friendly” grew by more than 70 per cent as people seek to have their pets join them on their staycations and dine outs.

Preference for language content

The demand for content in local languages is also on the rise.

“As more people become connected users, especially from non-metros, the demand for local language is also continuing to grow. YouTube searches for songs and videos in local languages doubled in 2021. Growth in searches for translations and assistance in comprehending words that are not in users’ mother tongue underscore the need for the digital ecosystem to serve the Indic language user,” said the report.