Monetization, User Acquisition

Global markets: Going big in India and Brazil

Katie Jansen
Jun 9, 2017
AppLovin India Brazil regional mobile economy blog post image

Mobile is booming in both India and Brazil. A combination of improving infrastructure, lower tariffs, rapid smartphone adoption, and the rise of regional players with a keen sense of local market dynamics is common to each of these global markets.

With reference to market data at hand and to emerging conditions in each region, as well as known behaviors and usage trends among consumers, here’s a look at these two rapidly evolving mobile markets.

By the numbers


There are currently more than 1 billion mobile phone subscribers in India. About 200 million are on smartphones as of the end of 2016 (trailing only China), but that’s really just the starting point.  

Phablets (mobile devices with screen from 5 to about 7 inches) have a 61% market share, outpacing the US by a good margin. Yet, while the most popular category of device is clear, there are at least a dozen well-established device manufacturers, including the market leader, Samsung (with about 40%), and lesser-known brands such as Redmi and Micromax.

Mobile data prices are high, but growing adoption of smartphones and improving connectivity reach in rural areas are starting to drive rates down (about 50% in the last year)–this will be a key factor going forward for both consumer usage and e-commerce growth (see below).

Peak usage for India’s mobile consumers comes around 9 p.m. They are slow starters, with morning usage rates comparatively low. Mobile consumers in India are quite privacy-conscious, and to date, slow adopters of mobile payments (about $360 million in 2016, a tiny fraction of the more than $27 billion in proximity mobile payments in the US alone), but this figure will grow quickly in the coming months and years as smartphone adoption accelerates, data rates continue to decrease, and the effects of demonetization scale.


While the Brazilian economy has suffered a recession over the last few years, all the signs indicate that is now changing. In fact, it is predicted that contraction is over and Brazil’s economy will actually start to expand again in 2017.

The Brazilian people’s deep affection for mobile may be a key driver in that recovery. About 64 million of Brazil’s 208 million people use smartphones, more than a third of the combined total of users in all of Latin America. As with India, that figure is growing—smartphone penetration is expected to rise to 48% by 2018, up a full 10 points from 2015 levels. This is excellent news for retailers and mobile advertisers because Brazilians are voracious digital consumers.

Brazil is already the largest retail market in Latin America, even despite the economic downturn. E-commerce sales in Brazil already lead the Latin American market and will continue to grow by about 12.5% per year. A significant driver behind this trend is the high penetration rate of credit cards (50%) and alternate payment methods offered by local vendors, including Boleto Bancario, a federally-backed digital payments system that today handles about a quarter of all digital payments in the country.

Brazilians are much more tolerant of ads than their peers in India, driving advertisers to spend a full 50% of all digital ad spend across Latin America in Brazil alone—a figure expected to reach $5.8 billion by 2019. Boding well for future opportunity, Brazil also boasts the highest video ad completion rates of any global market.

App usage trends


App usage in India is growing at nearly 4x the global rate (India = 43% YoY; global = 11%). That’s creating explosive growth in demand for bandwidth and data usage. To fill in the performance gaps until data infrastructure can catch up, the Indian consumer turns to Softonic’s UC Browser, an ultralight app with the ability to filter more than 80% of traffic, helping to keep costs down.

Android absolutely dominates market share in India (97% as of Q2 2016), and there are a variety of app stores, ranging from Amazon and Opera, to local players including GetJar, the world’s biggest open app store. UC Browser is by far the most popular mobile browser in India, coming in at #6 overall in India’s Top 10 apps, in order: WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, Gmail, SHAREit, UC, Google Maps, MX Player, Facebook, and Facebook Messenger. It’s interesting to note that India is the only country with two video apps (YouTube and MX Player) in their top 10—a great indication for publisher and brands of the efficacy and potential of mobile video ads in this vast and growing marketplace.

In 2016, the Music, Media and Entertainment app category saw the greatest increase in usage (188%), followed by Business and Finance apps (176%), and Utilities and Productivity apps (99%). One peculiarity for the Indian market is the popularity of Health and Fitness apps (up 27%), which the Indian consumer enthusiastically embraces in concert with wearables to monitor their health and fitness goals.


Brazilian culture has a strong social tradition, and it shows up in Brazilians’ app preferences, with chat and social networking apps dominating the Top 10 (YouTube, WhatsApp, Google, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Chrome, Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail chat, Google+).

In fact, a full 92% of Brazil’s internet users, mobile and otherwise, are connected to social media, in fact, Brazilians account for about 10% of all social media time globally. All this socialization drives a lot of traffic: A full 34% of all Latin American app sessions are generated from Brazil, far more than any other country, including Mexico. Privacy concerns are an afterthought in many cases, and ads that strike a tone of social conversation tend to do very well.

Like India, Android dominates with about 90% of the market (it doesn’t help that Brazil is the most expensive place in the world to buy an iPhone). In addition to Google Play, Aptoide, Mobile9 and Mobogenie are among many regional options for discovering and downloading apps, ringtones, etc. Data usage is less of an issue in Brazil where users are comparatively better off than their peers in India. About 20% of smartphone users have regular access to 4G networks, and WiFi (Brazilian’s preferred method for getting online) is pervasive.

Emerging market forces


With smartphone penetration set to reach 66% by 2018 – a whopping 40-point climb from 2015 levels—one can see that the mobile ecosystem in India is extremely active. In the telecom sphere, Jio is a leading innovator, while Vodafone and Airtel have started the market consolidation process through mergers and acquisitions.

In the public realm, the government has put some $3 billion USD into creating a National Fiber Optic Network and announced plans to set up free WiFi in more than 1,000 remote villages. These and other bold initiatives from Indian entrepreneurs will certainly drive adoption of apps.

Lookup, a Bangalore startup that connects Indian consumers to nearby stores via chat, is one of those angling for market leadership. Backed in its seed round by the likes of Vinod Khosla and Twitter’s Biz Stone, the company was quickly acquired by NowFloats.


You can not take the Brazil out of Brazilian mobile users. Move out of the top apps listed above, and you’ll quickly discover very strong local products, like Palco—a music streaming service—that are extremely popular with Brazilian consumers. That sixth sense for the Brazilian social commitment jumps to the fore as a reason for local players’ success, as does an appreciation for the way Brazil’s economy works.

Despite a large majority of its 208 million citizens now living in urban centers, a full 40% of people in Brazil aren’t part of traditional banking systems. You’ll remember, though, that smartphone adoption in Brazil is high and still growing. To this end, fintech and specifically mobile fintech is a very hot industry in Brazil. App publishers and brands are pushing the boundaries in creating a reliable and approachable fintech app that engages Brazilian consumers and appeals to their unique demands for experience.

Nubank could be a leading unicorn candidate, already drawing more than $234 million in four rounds plus a debt financing. The mobile-based credit card business is the belle of the ball among hundreds of entrants in the Brazilian fintech boom.


By 2020, emerging markets worldwide will have more than 2.5 billion smartphone users, and the demand for mobile data will increase nearly 10x.

Where demonetization and burgeoning data infrastructure are key to India’s growth as a global marketplace, its future will be dictated by the evolution of user trends, including the sharing of social media and the rapid growth of digital shopping and mobile payments. There is a clear link between smartphone penetration and economic growth and the world’s fastest growing mobile market is set to define the outer limits of m-commerce potential.

In Brazil, where nearly 80 million people will have smartphones by 2019 (half on 4G), the drivers of growth may be less on commerce and entertainment than on providing practical utility. Brazilian users, social by nature, will be quick to adopt and disseminate new technologies (including mobile fintech), and chatbots embedded in the nation’s wildly popular messaging apps will likely become a staple of everyday life for Brazilian consumers.

In each of these unique, diverse, and fascinating global markets, it will be the individual consumer, smartphone, or phablet in hand that dictates the direction and trajectory of market growth.

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