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Flowers, Prayers and Levitating Businessmen – SwiftKey shines a light on a year of Indian emoji usage

23rd June 2017

To coincide with our transliteration announcement, the SwiftKey team has today unveiled new insights into how Indians are using emoji to express themselves, share their feelings and air their views on the biggest cultural moments of the past 12 months.

The research highlights the differences in emoji usage across India. In the North it’s all about love, with the Face Blowing A Kiss emoji proving most popular. Citizens of the South are more interested in celebration, using the Party Popper emoji the most, while in the East, people are indulging in a little light flirtation through their use of the Bikini emoji. In contrast, Western and Central India showed an old-fashioned spirit, with gestures of flowers being shared the most. In the West people offered the traditional Bouquet emoji and whilst Central went for classic romance with the Rose emoji.

The full list of top ten most popular emoji by region is as follows:

  North North East West Central East South
1. ? ? ? ? ? ?
2. ? ? ? ?? ? ?
3. ?? ? ? ?? ? ?
4. ? ? ? ? ? ?
5. ? ? ? ? ?
6.  ❤ ? ?? ?? ? ?
7. ? ? ? ? ? ?
8. ?
?? ? ? ?
9. ? ? ? ? ?
10. ? ? ? ? ??


To inform the research we built a profile of unique emoji usage for each region, excluding universally popular emoji – like Tears of Joy and Smiley Face – to examine differences in people’s emoji preferences when communicating with friends and family.

Other insights uncovered include the North, West and Central regions showing their respect, with the use of the Folded Hands emoji representing Indian greeting “Namaste”, alongside its conventional usage around prayer/praying or please/thank you.

Some emoji proved unique to individual regions, such as the Man in Business Suit Levitating emoji, which ranked second most popular in South India, but didn’t feature at all anywhere else. While this emoji was originally created as an alternative to the exclamation mark, in 2016 many people began using it as a tribute to southern superstar Rajinikanth – coinciding with his latest movie Kabali.

In addition to the regional analysis, we looked at the use of emoji around key dates within the Indian calendar over the past 12 months. For example, the high-profile demonetization of all 500- and 1,000-rupee bank notes in November 2016 met with a wide range of emoji, from the factual – such as the ATM Sign or Dollar Banknote emoji – to the Monkey With Hands Over Eyes, showing the divide in public opinion over the new policy. In contrast, the launch of the new IPL season in April 2017 demonstrated that the Indian love affair with 20/20 cricket is alive and well, with a plethora of Hearts, Cricket Bats and Clapping Hands dominating users’ emoji choices.

We’d love to hear what you think of the findings. Tweet us @SwiftKey if you have any feedback on what these emoji mean! 

The SwiftKey team