NEW DELHI: As the number of internet users in India passes the 200m mark, a leading industry figure has said the internet is now "mainstream".

A report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market researcher IMRB International said that there were 205m internet users in October and this figure would reach 213m by the end of the year.

Rajan Anandan, IAMAI chairman, noted that it had taken more than ten years for the number to increase from 10m to 100m, but only three years to then hit 200m. "From here on, we can hope to develop a robust internet ecosystem with a multitude of local and global players and a thriving Internet economy," he told Livemint, adding that the internet was now "mainstream in India."

Most users are based in urban areas, but the number of rural users is growing fast said the report, thanks in part to a 40% increase in the number of community service centres. These have been promoted by the Indian government as a way of extending internet access to rural areas and delivering digital services to citizens.

The number of claimed internet users in rural India has risen sharply as a result, up 57%, while the number of active internet users showed a similar trend, up 32%.

In terms of hard numbers there were 68m rural internet users in October, expected to rise to 72m by the year end, while comparable figures for urban areas stood at 137m and 141m respectively.

A significant proportion of these users were using mobile devices to go online. The report said there were a total of 110m mobile internet users in October, split 77:23 between urban and rural. By December the total was expected to rise to 130m with the urban-rural divide altering to 79:21.

Earlier IAMAI data, reported in the Times of India, found that Mumbai had the most internet users, followed by Delhi and Hyderabad. Mumbai was also one of the fastest growing cities as the number of online users there had risen 45% in 2012-13; only Kolkata, at 47%, was growing faster.

This growth was being fuelled by the increasing access to the internet via smartphones among lower income groups, while students and housewives were going online to use social media sites.

Data sourced from Livemint, Times of India; additional content by Warc staff