NEW DELHI: Brands could benefit from enhancing their online presence in India, where the number of internet users will almost triple in the next three years, the Boston Consulting Group has argued.

According to the company, India's digital audience recently hit 120m people, a penetration of around 10%, and should expand to 350m in 2015.

By this date, between 40% and 50% of the connected community are expected to solely access the web using a wireless device, compared with roughly 10% today.

The penetration of mobile internet usage now stands at 20% in India's biggest metropolitan centres, versus 15% in tier four cities. These totals stood at 25% and 9% respectively for laptop or PC web use.

Of the 225m data-enabled handsets in India, only a third had an associated web service. Among this latter group, however, 40% go online "sporadically", with the cost of doing so being one major obstacle.

"India, a trailblazer in the mobile market but an internet laggard, has reached an important crossroads in its online life," BCG said. "The next few years will be a formative period for consumer attitudes and for new products and services."

Based on a poll of 4,500 urban adults, the Boston Consulting Group reported that 40% of internet usage, measured in hours, is attributable to the largest cities in India.

In 2015, it is predicted that 38% of activity will be drawn from these areas, with first, second and third tier markets on 22% and tier four outlets on 40%.

Some 13% of the current web population were categorised as "trendsetters", or young, affluent early adopters. They are spread across all cities and spend 54 hours a month online, for entertainment, work and shopping.

Another 22%, in the "reluctant adopter" group, first utilised the internet for professional reasons and then broadened their uptake. Such consumers have expensive phones and data plans, but low usage.

The 32% of "smart shoppers" proved to be engaged with digital tools like social media and blogging but often rely on cybercafés for financial reasons, as many are students or have modest incomes.

Making up the largest segment were the "tech indifferents", on 33%. They are generally older users pursuing "basic" online activities, and usually go online to stay in touch with friends and family.

Data sourced from Boston Consulting Group; additional content by Warc staff