Visitors to India quickly experience firsthand the country’s notoriously inadequate infrastructure: the crumbling roads, sprawling shantytowns, and frequent power outages. Just as big a drag on India’s economy is a problem that’s not so easy to spot—the country’s Internet infrastructure.
In a nation of more than 1.1 billion people, almost everyone on the Internet has to tolerate downloading data at the sluggish rate of 256 kilobits per second. Of the country’s 100 million Internet users, just 12.5 million have broadband, compared with 450 million households in China. It’s no coincidence that India has no local search engine or e-commerce companies that can rival the scale of China’s Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba.