India, home to 1.3 billion people, offers a temptingly huge target for global tech companies: one of the world’s fastest growing economies and more than half a billion internet users, second only to China. American titans like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Walmart and Uber, as well as China’s ByteDance and Alibaba, are all trying to grab a piece of this pie.
But so far, the massive internet population hasn’t translated to massive ad revenue (see chart). That’s largely because most Indian internet users lack the spending power to make them attractive advertising targets. It could take many years for that to change, casting doubt on the value of expansion plans by ad-supported firms like Google, Facebook and ByteDance.