Digital Heartlands Report 2023
Dr. Tanvi Gupta
IIM Udaipur’s Consumer Culture Lab has partnered with Stripe Partners to explore the cultural dynamics behind the boom in India’s small-town creator economy. While most mainstream consumer research in India has so far focused on the metros, the digital growth story emerging in India’s heartlands is yet to be told. And we are here to tell you that story – a rich ethnographic account that brings to life the stories, hopes, and emotions of ‘desi’ content creators in India’s small towns.
As the Internet penetrates India’s small towns and villages, the creator economy is booming. Local language content creators are flourishing on global and local social media platforms. We did a rich ethnographic study of 15 social media creators from nine tier 2/3 cities across India – people who use platforms like Instagram and YouTube to create original content, gain followers, create social impact, or make money. We went to the heart of India’s invisible digital revolution to understand these emerging desi creators – how they navigate between their ambitions and their roots through content creation.
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What our team says about the report
Dr. Simon RobertsPartner, Stripe Partners
We are delighted to have supported the Consumer Culture Lab team undertake this research. The pace of change in India over the last decades has been remarkable and technology has been at the heart of these developments. Yet as the appetite for understanding the Indian consumer has grown, explorations of India beyond the headlines – and outside of the metros – are rare. This report helps to fill this important gap. Insight into a huge, diverse, and vibrant community of creators shines light on the new India and the role technology plays in helping people navigate rapid economic and social change.
Dr. Julien CaylaResearch Advisor, Consumer Culture Lab
We launched the Consumer Culture Lab because the pace of change in India requires new thinking and new methods. We wanted the lab to act as a space where we can analyze these changes by looking specifically at the evolution of consumer culture in India. Working with Stripe Partners helps us demonstrate some of these competencies.
Dr. Ashok BannerjeeDirector, IIM Udaipur
Rural India is driving internet adoption. It grew from 299 million internet users in 2020 to 351 million in 2021. Along with internet adoption comes concomitant increase in use of social media and e-commerce platforms for opinion formation and buying decisions. This report does an excellent job in capturing the rise of digital consumers in India and their growing ease in using digital platforms to create content to influence decision making. The major findings of the ‘Digital Heartlands of India’ will surely have key takeaways equally for the industries that have rural consumers as target customers and policy makers.
Dr.Rajesh NanarpuzhaAssociate Professor, IIM Udaipur, Co-chair, Consumer Culture Lab
The Consumer Culture Lab has decided to take up one key research project annually. For this year, it is the lab’s research into India’s Digital Heartland and the content creators who fill it with richness. As India’s internet revolution transforms rural and Tier 2/Tier 3 towns, this is the most opportune time to understand the large-scale changes afoot. In line with the stated mission of IIMU’s Consumer Culture Lab to understand the Indian consumer better and bring the muted voices of India’s consumptionscape into the mainstream, Rangbhoomi- The Digital Heartlands project is our significant first step. The implications of this study will be compelling for both industry and academia.
Dr. Tanvi GuptaAssociate Professor, IIM Udaipur, Co-chair, Consumer Culture Lab
Most Indians, including those living in the metros have small-town roots. Rangbhoomi has been a culturally enriching journey as it allowed me to go deeper into the ‘desi’ psyche by studying India’s unique domestication of digital content creation.
Adishri GuhaSenior Research Executive, Consumer Culture Lab
The creator’s creativity is a manifestation of their habitus. Rangbhoomi has been an ethnographer’s dream. Spending time with the creators in their natural ecosystem has been truly revelatory and provided me a rare opportunity to understand the lifeworld of our desi creators.
Julian Gopffarth & Arabella TrowerConsultants, Stripe Partners
It has been fascinating to work on this project with the Consumer Culture Lab. The insights the team has gathered have made visible a new, often overlooked class of creators as well as their motivations and aspirations. We were lucky to be able to accompany the project and learn so much about a country whose diverse population will play a central role in shaping the digital cultures of the future, within and beyond India.