When it comes to tech giants like Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL), there’s a lot of concern among stock investors about where their growth is going to come from. After all, if you look at GOOG specifically, the company already controls more than 90% of the global digital search market, more than 60% of the global browser market and about 30% of the e-mail market.
Plus, the company’s core digital ad growth rates are slowing, the cloud can’t grow rapidly forever, its other new hardware products like Google Home have been only minor successes, and its autonomous driving unit, Waymo, won’t meaningfully improve its financial results for awhile.
So it seems like there are more than a few reasons to be bearish on GOOG stock, and owners of Alphabet stock could be worried about the company’s outlook. But this perspective is too narrow. Importantly, it ignores the biggest long-term growth catalyst for Alphabet stock: India.
India is a big country. The second largest country in the world, it has 1.3 billion people. To put that number in perspective, the U.S. has just 340 million people. The world has just 7.7 billion people. Thus, India is nearly four times as large as America, and it has over 15% of the world’s population.
Here’s the kicker: a majority of Indians still aren’t on the internet. India’s internet penetration rate is below 40%, versus 90% in the U.S. and Canada, 85% throughout Europe, and nearly 60% in still- developing China.
Over the next decade, India will rapidly urbanize and digitize. As it does so, India’s internet penetration rates will continually increase, eventually exceeding 70%. As a result, hundreds of millions of the country’s citizens will come online. A significant portion of those people will use Google’s suite of internet services, like search, Gmail, and Chrome.
So Alphabet’s next leg of growth will come from India. This leg of growth will be huge, and it will provide a strong, positive catalyst for GOOG stock. Consequently, the exponential growth of the Indian internet market that will occur over the next decade is a good reason to own GOOG stock over the long-term.
The Potential Boost for Alphabet Stock Is Enormous
Many people are concerned that Alphabet’s business will slow due to its maturity. After all, smartphone and internet penetration rates in developed countries are plateauing around 90%. Markets that utilize smartphones and the internet are also plateauing. Simply take a look at this chart from eMarketer, which predicts that the growth of the red-hot digital advertising market will decline from 20% in 2017 to under 10% in five years.
But these estimates ignore the urbanization of developing countries, which could cause the growth of internet and smartphone services to rapidly accelerate.
While smartphone and internet penetration rates in developed countries are plateauing, that phenomenon is not occurring in developing countries. Specifically, the world’s two most populous countries — China and India — are rapidly urbanizing and digitizing.
Urbanization has been occurring for a longer period of time in China than in India, and the growth of the Chinese internet market thus far has been jaw-dropping. The internet penetration rate in that country is around 60%, and the climb from 0% to 60% has produced an exceptionally valuable internet sector in China, as multiple Chinese internet companies have $50 billion-plus market caps.
Because of China’s massive censorship, Chinese urbanization hasn’t provided much of a tailwind for GOOG stock. When it comes to search, Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) reigns supreme in China. Thus, although Chinese urbanization has produced tremendous value, Baidu has obtained all of the benefits from the growth of the Chinese internet search market.
That problem doesn’t exist in India, where the market share of Google’s search engine exceeds 95% and Google Chrome’s market share is 60%. Thus, as India rapidly urbanizes over the next several years, GOOG stock should be a big winner.
The Numbers Are Compelling for GOOG
If you don’t believe the qualitative argument, just look at the numbers.
India’s internet penetration rate in 2016 was 28%. By the end of 2017, it had climbed to 37%. Six months later, in mid-2018, India’s internet penetration rate stood at 38%. In other words, India has a rapidly expanding internet market. But its penetration rate is still relatively low.
China had internet penetration of about 38% in 2011. Today, that rate stands at 60%. Thus, it took China about seven years to gain 22 percentage points of internet penetration. Due to similarities between the demographics and economies of India and China, India’s penetration rate should accelerate at about the same speed as China’s did, meaning that India’s internet penetration rate should hit 60% in seven years. Assuming it takes another eight years for India to go from 60% to the developed country standard of 90%, then India’s internet penetration rate should reach 90% in about 15 years.
Based on India’s population and the assumptions outlined above, an additional 700 million Indians should access the internet in 15 years. Nearly all of the country’s new internet users are utilizing Google’s search engine, so almost 700 million more people in India are likely to be using Google in 15 years.
To put that into perspective, Google’s search engine processes about 3.5 billion searches per day. So, nearly 700 million new users could really improve Google’s financial results, lifting GOOG stock in the process.
Also, a healthy portion of those new users will utilize Google Chrome, Gmail, and Alphabet’s various other internet services. Some may even buy Google’s smartphones or laptops.
In summary, India’s growth could meaningfully improve Google’s top and bottom lines, enhancing the attractiveness of GOOG stock. for long-term investors
The Bottom Line on GOOG Stock
GOOG stock is struggling right now because of macro economic concerns and regulation risks. But GOOG is still the backbone of the internet. While internet growth may be maxed out in developed countries, internet usage can still grow a great deal in developing countries like India. The market is failing to adequately factor in this growth potential, making GOOG stock attractive for long-term investors.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long GOOG stock and BIDU stock.