Social Media in India

Charit Narayanan
Jul 8, 2019 · 5 min read

Around 250 million people were internet users in 2014, and that number has risen to 520 million in just 5 years. Now, over 20% of the population are smartphone owners, compared to only 10% in 2014.

With the increasing prevalence of internet and smartphone usage in India, social media apps are more popular than ever. With the rising popularity of social media comes massive amounts of data and many stories to be told. I will examine four major social media apps- Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat- and construct a narrative of their performance in India.

Whatsapp is Winning

Figure 1 (left) ; Figure 2 (right)
Figure 2a

Whatsapp is by far the most used app of the lot in India, boasting around 250 million monthly active users (MAU), and that figure is only increasing. It has nearly a 20% higher penetration than any of the others (Figure 2a) and is close to achieving total market penetration, indicated by its declining y/y change in MAU. Whatsapp has the highest new user acquisition of any product (Figure 2), and every year, there are new downloads than there were the year before (Figure 8). Moving on, Whatsapp is far ahead of the other apps in terms of average daily sessions per user; users are highly dedicated, visiting the app 10 more times a day than users of the other apps (Figure 3). Its time spent per user is only second to Instagram (Figure 4). Whatsapp users are both strong weekly and daily users- nearly all MAU use the app once a week and 9 out 10 weekly users are also daily users (Figures 5, 6)

Instagram is overtaking Facebook

Figure 3 (left) ; Figure 4 (right)

Although in absolute terms such as total downloads, MAU, etc., Facebook continues to stay ahead, Instagram is swiftly overtaking FB in numerous other metrics.

Facebook has the second-highest number of MAU (Figure 2), bu shows little growth. ON the other hand, Instagram started from a low base but is growing rapidly and will soon hit 100 million (Figure 1). Instagram recently surpassed Facebook in average daily sessions and FB users are visiting the app less on average than they were 2 years ago. Instagram has seen its time spent per user rapidly increase, and it is now even higher than Whatsapp. This is likely a continuous cycle- as more people join IG, there are more posts and people to interact with, encouraging more people to join.

Figure 5 (left) ; Figure 6 (right)

Instagram has progressed into a much more sticky app, as evidenced by the charts above, and is overtaking FB in both graphs. More and more Instagrammers are becoming both strong weekly and daily users. While Facebook growth in both categories is stagnant, Instagram’s rise is remarkable. Users are active on the app roughly 8 more days a month than they were 5 years ago (Figure 6).

Figure 7

Instagram displays a solid upwards trajectory: its DAU/WAU is growing along with its WAU/MAU (Figure 7). IG appears to be on the way to eclipsing Facebook: Facebook’s statistics for these metrics have remained relatively unchanged and the app shows trivial growth. A common pattern is observed once again- Instagram is catching up to Facebook.

Snapchat is unsuccessful

Figure 8

Snapchat, by nearly all metrics, is growing the slowest, even from a low base. Snapchat has the lowest new user acquisition of any app even while it began from the lowest base. Interestingly, Snapchat users have as many sessions as their FB counterparts (Figure 3), but they spend far less time on the app (Figure 4). Perhaps, this is because SC users are driven to the app by notifications or to quickly post on their story, do streaks, etc., and then promptly exit the app. On the other hand, there is a more continuous flow of content on FB and given the larger # of MAU, there are likely more family and friends to engage with on Facebook.

The overarching story binding these graphs together is as follows:

  • Whatsapp is excelling in all fields and Indians love the app. More people have the app on their phones than any of the other apps, and they use Whatsapp more than any other social media.

All data collected from AppAnnie (

Charit Narayanan

Written by

I am a high school junior from the Bay Area. I strive to understand behavioral and societal impacts on economic decisions.

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