A billion faces and a million tongues – there’s no better way to describe a country as culturally and linguistically diverse as India. According to the latest census, there are 22 major languages written in 13 different scripts and over 19, 500 dialects.
The recent and comprehensive ‘Year in Search’ report by Google India shed light on the way Indians consume content. With close to 450 million internet users, the report projects that number to go up to 650 million by 2020.
Taking advantage of affordable smartphones and low-cost data plans, India’s digital growth story has shifted from the metros to Tier I and Tier II cities.
Another April 2017 report by KPMG and Google showed two key findings:
Suffice to say these vast numbers clearly indicate a potential for vernacular content in India’s digital market and the overall growth of regional content online. Considering how these numbers can drive and impact digital use and revenue, there are now several startups that have chosen to focus on indigenous content to enable and accommodate India’s next billion Internet users.
Here’s a quick rundown of the top twelve vernacular startups in India:
Founded in 2009, DailyHunt is one of India’s leading news and local language content platforms. The brainchild of former Nokia employees, Chandrashekar Sohoni and Umesh Kulkarni, DailyHunt is headquartered in Bengaluru and offers its users over 100,000 news articles in 14 vernacular languages licensed form 800 publication partners daily. Daily hunt also lets you advertise on their platform, making it convenient for marketers to target the right audience.
22 Languages is a platform that helps brands create content in 22 official Indian languages. With this, you can create ads, website ads, Apps and blogs in local languages. With a large network of native writers, this platform is perfect for brands that are looking to tap the next billion users with their multilingual marketing strategies.
In an attempt to leverage and drive the number of vernacular content users, ShareChat proposes to be India’s answer to Facebook, Twitter and similar social networking platforms. Headquartered in Bengaluru, ShareChat was founded in 2015 by IIT-Kanpur alumni Bhanu Singh Pratap, Farid Ahsan and Ankush Sachdeva. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, ShareChat enables users to post and share videos, songs, images and other content, as well as discover content that is topical and trending. Users can interact with content in several Indian languages including Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Telugu, etc.
Roposo is a social media sharing platform that lets its users create images, video and other shareable content using editing tools. Based out of Gurugram, Roposo was founded in 2012 by IIT Delhi alumni Avinash Saxena, Mayank Bhangadia and Kaushal Shubhank. The app is currently available in 8 languages namely Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada Gujarati, Punjabi and Bengali, for users to explore and expresses themselves in. Roposo further plans to introduce languages like Odiya and Assamese among others and state that users can share content on their app without the risk of their message being lost in translation.
Similar to Roposo, Clip App is a digital media video sharing startup that lets users watch, create, edit and share funny videos and images in the local and regional languages. With over 97% of videos in India being consumed in non-English languages, this platform can be used to find and edit videos for a brand’s social media. The content created can then be shared on various platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. The Bengaluru-based startup was founded in March 2017 by Ashish Gupta, Nav Agarwala and Swapnil Upadhyay. Clip App is available for download on the Google Play Store.
Founded in 2017 by Mayank Bidawatka and Aprameya Radhakrishna, Vokal is a P2P knowledge-sharing platform that enables its users to ask queries and receive responses in the local language of their choice in the form of audio. The founders wanted to provide Indians accessing the internet in their vernacular, the chance to assimilate quality indigenous content.
Based out of New Delhi, BetterButter is a recipe-discovery platform that allows its users to discover and share local, regional and international recipes in their indigenous languages. Founded in 2015 by Sukhmani Bedi and Niyaz Laiq, BetterButter has a repository of over 50,000 recipes and videos. The site currently offers its recipes in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi and English and is gearing up to add Gujarati, Telugu and Bengali in the first quarter of 2018-19.
BetterButter’s Hindi service was launched in March 2017 and has seen more than two lakh hits, while Tamil reached over 25,000. Marathi, started in December 2017, saw over 5,000.
It is safe to say that Chatbots are the next big digital marketing wave and a personal way of connecting with your customers. Using this strategy for your website can increase leads and help you understand your customers better. But what if your customers prefer vernacular content? That is where Vernacular.ai comes in.
It provides its clients with multi-lingual chatbots to help their users interact in their preferred local language. The AI-enabled startup utilises National Language Processing to create its products. Headquartered in Bengaluru and founded in 2016 by Sourabh Gupta, Akshay Deshraja and Manoj Sarda, Vernacular.ai’s chatbots enable businesses to provide their users with a seamless customer experience enhanced by Artificial Intelligence and multi-lingual support.
Samosa Labs is a chat entertainment app based out of Hyderabad and provides its users with a platform to create audio files and GIFs that can be shared across Facebook and WhatsApp and other social media platforms. In order to penetrate the regional language market, Samosa Labs gives its users the ability to create content in several Indian languages. It was founded in 2015 by Rahul Reddy Koora, Abhilash Inumella and Abhimanyu Pamulapati.
Bengaluru-based local news startup, Lokal is the newest one to join the pack. Founded in July 2018 by Vishal Chaudhary and Jani Pasha, Lokal provides users with a platform to read local news based on their location and choice of local language. The news is delivered through a curated network of local journalists in a given area and freelancers. You can download the Lokal app from Google Play Store.
NewsDog is a news aggregator founded in 2016. It aims to provide Indian users with content in 10 different Indian languages. Based out of Beijing, the startup was founded by Maggie Ma and Forrest Chen and currently serves 50 million users.
With Voice being one of the newest marketing segments poised for exponential growth in the near future, a number of companies are looking to ride that wave. Bootstrapped firm Agrahyah Technologies is one of them. Founded in Mumbai in October 2016, Agrahyah Technologies is the brain-child of Sreeraman Thiagarajan, Uppal Shah and Rushabh Vasa. The software company is a solutions provider for voice-first platforms like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, etc. Their suite of Indian language digital content, mobile apps and voice products aims to help the average Indian access the internet by removing the barrier of English.
Regional languages have the power like no other to truly connect with your target audience. For example, our YouTube channel Arrear Irundalum Career helps budding entrepreneurs to make it big in life with useful insights shared in Tamil. Check out one of our best-performing videos below:
India is a multilingual nation in the true sense of the word, and now startups and established companies alike are looking to tap into the power of vernacular interface and content. We at Social Beat, too, have witnessed first-hand the power of vernacular content by coming up with a ground-breaking social media campaign in regional content for our client Cholamandalam Finance.
Surprising? These figures might sound counter-intuitive with so much focus on English given in digital media today. But it’s a fact that there has been a profound growth of regional content online. Consequently, this holds a massive implication for brands which are not leveraging regional languages for marketing their brand. With an anticipated CAGR of 41% over the next few years, the opportunity will only grow bigger. Taking that into account we have launched 22 languages. This website provides organizations with access to an audience of more than 50 million users nationwide. Companies can use a multilingual marketing strategy to showcase their products and services in over 22 languages through this medium. To understand this concept better, here are a few interesting insights from the latest study done by KPMG India and Google on the growth of vernacular languages in India on the digital front. Check out this video to understand why your brand must adopt a multilingual strategy:
Digital news has caught up easily because of its simplicity. Data is usually accessible through an app or a website with mobile compatibility. Big names have realized the importance of digital media due to the silent downfall in newspaper and magazine sales. Currently, there are 106 million users viewing digital news in local Indian languages. This figure is anticipated to add up to 180 million users by 2021. However, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and Tamil make up 80% of the current users. The major categories of type of news viewed are general, sports and politics. This only means that there is a dire need of more companies to enter this segment, to keep India more informed and updated.
Digital Classifieds are a very big sector. This sector has the potential to cause a ripple effect as people interact with each other in the same area and subsequently belong to the same target group. This would cause information to travel to a larger audience. Furthermore, Indian language usage would provide an extra boost by causing the information to reach nooks and corners of rural India. The top categories, which are looked up the most in classifieds, are matrimony, recruitment and real estate. Nevertheless, the only obstruction in digital classifieds is the lack of availability. This sector is anticipated to grow to an astonishing 100 million user base in the coming five years with individuals fluent in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada forming 70% of the total users by then.
The sector of digital payments is estimated to grow at 30% CAGR and a humongous 175 million consumers are expected to use it with Indian language interface by 2021. These gates are mostly used for mobile recharge and utility bill payments. Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are heading the charts in the languages open to quick adaption and will form half of the users on the digital payment platform.
According to statistics, Indian language users prefer buying electronics online rather than apparels or other accessories. As for the sellers, it has become much more convenient for local sellers to reach e-commerce giants like Amazon. One can sell their products on Amazon in five easy steps - the steps being creating an account, listing, taking products live and handing over the product to Amazon for delivery. It is quite convenient and hassle-free. The user base for e-commerce in local languages is growing at a high rate. It has a CAGR of 32% and is expected to add 120 million users in the upcoming five years. This popularity can be attributed to two major factors as voted highest by consumers: Firstly, the availability of better promotional offers and secondly, the huge variety of products available online which may not be present in the smaller cities or towns of India. The main obstruction users experience is the lack of end-to-end compatibility in Indian languages. However, as these obstructions show signs of quick recovery, e-tailing in local languages apart from e-commerce in English, will be a lucrative segment for the e-giants.
It is no surprise that impressive progress has already been made in this segment. Currently, a mass population of 162 million exists as the user base. Keeping in mind that the predicted user base by 2021 is 392 million Indians, there is much more that can be done in the digital entertainment arena. The content has the space to be comparatively more experimental and creative than other platforms as the adoption rate is 90% for this sector. The viewer’s quickly adapt to the kind of material available to them. These users consume both audio and video mediums.
To tap into this huge market, we used local languages for our informative videos like the Chola Finance video which was very well received by the Hindi speaking locals. The video got a whopping 1,751,355 Views and more than 64,000 shares.
The challenge remains in picking the right medium like Facebook, Hotstar, Youtube, tvfPlay or other regional channels.
If you are looking to create videos, read our blog on how to create low cost videos.
There are currently 41 million users under the segment of online government services. It is increasing at a CAGR of 33% and is expected to land at a massive 172 million in the next five years. Some of the applications that constitute online government services are tax filling, applying for government jobs and knowing about new rules and regulations. The Indian Government can use this platform to increase transparency and cut down corruption. However, limited local language enablement combined with lack of interest and awareness poses a huge obstruction which needs to be addressed immediately.
Chat applications currently have a 170 million user base and are anticipated to reach a 400 million user base by 2021. Hindi is topping at a huge margin of 50% as of now. Kannada is expected to grow to a far second with a whopping 20% in the coming years. The major challenge in this is the upgrade needed in voice to text, language keyboard and transliteration.
Social media platforms have a total of 115 million local language users as of now. This figure is expected to grow to 300 million by 2021.The South is anticipated to dominate this area due to its better adoption skills.
Digital write ups are a very interesting scope for Indian languages on the digital platform. It will provide visibility for the users who want to put their content online. It will also provide job opportunities for local people by companies looking to improve their SEO options by generating more local language content online. Additionally, mobile friendly blogs are preferred by users. 54% of Indians would adopt reading write ups if they are optimized for mobile screens.
This ongoing shift in India’s internet scenario has not gone past unseen by the Indian Government. Taking into account the increase in smart phone availability due to cheaper prices, a 176 million increment is expected till 2021. A striking 90% of these consumers are anticipated to be Indian language users. The government has taken this into account and made it mandatory for mobile phones sold in India to be Indian language friendly. Additionally, the government has also taken an initiative to make 60 million rural households digitally literate.
There are approximately 500 million Indian language users online. This figure will significantly have a huge impact on the nature of content presented on digital platforms. Additionally, this audience will be more inclusive of the elderly and the rural population. Also, as long as the type of sectors is concerned, Digital Classifieds, digital news and financial solutions will see a major boost.
Due to the local reach, many B2C users might exploit the Indian language user base on various channels. Digital marketing in Indian local languages will get them untapped markets in India. The companies which will be involved could be news sites, e-commerce players, insurance companies and m-wallets to name a few. In tier 2 and tier 3 cities, this can be encashed at a higher level. Since 90% of the new mobile buyers are local language users, a whole new customer base can be reached through this medium. Here's an interesting video that tells you why you need to have a multilingual strategy if you want to create a strong digital presence among your regional audience.
Indian language based websites and application will see a rise. Digital advertisements in local languages could also be used by B2C companies to increase reach. Additionally, Google display ads could be customized to the regional language of the state where they are being viewed.
This progress would result in new data generation for companies. The database, through structured investments, can be analyzed for specific language behaviors. This will help digital marketers in ad planning and targeting.
We need to move to a language agnostic ecosystem. This is required to give a platform to the Indian language content creators. Voice recognition will be of major help to the users who find using search and navigation through text a challenge.
It is affirmative that the preference given to regional languages will play an active role in internet consumption. It will also help explore a huge new market for brands. Brands that miss this bandwagon are sure to lose out on quite a few million potential customers. Furthermore, Indian language in digital will lead to the spreading of knowledge in rural parts of India. Tier 2 and tier 3 cities will also be of prime targeting in this arena. With such profound reach, it is safe to say that marketing through your regional language is the next step in digitizing India.
Every marketing expert knows the importance of content marketing. It is a great way to engage with customers and to provide them with knowledge. Creating content that is both relevant and valuable to its target audience is at the very heart of effective content marketing. With the growth of mobile and internet in India, every town and village in India has access to Internet. Thanks to this internet revolution, most of the target audience can be found speaking another language apart from English. So how are you going to address this problem? Our solution is a multi-lingual content strategy.
English is, of course, most commonly used language online not just in the world but also in India. However, Google data shows 94% growth rate for Hindi content consumption. Keeping this in mind global brands has started focusing on regional language as art of their strategy. A year ago, Facebook users were flabbergasted to see the login page in Hindi script. This was followed by US based visual discovery tool Pinterest launching a Hindi version, allowing users in India to use the translated version.Today, Google supports languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, and Tamil among others.With 127 million Internet users in India consuming content in local language, all global social media sites have realized the fact that they if they don’t go local in India they might soon lose relevance. Catering to the internet users in tier II and III towns, Google is now focusing to expand usage of its products like Google maps in vernacular languages, especially Hindi.
Of the literate 74%, only 10% read English while the rest consume content in the vernacular medium. Remaining 66% are literate in their local languages. According to a latest study conducted by Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB International, regional content availability can boost the growth of Internet in India by 24%. There are more than 70,000 newspapers printed in India and around 90% are either printed in Hindi or other vernacular languages. Realizing the importance of regional content, Indian app developers are also recognizing the need for local app distribution platforms. International app stores do not lend themselves to the easy discovery of highly India-specific regional content.
Yourstory.com, one of India’s leading platform for entrepreneurs and promoting the entrepreneurial ecosystem, recently included separate sections for regional content.
The website also offers content in 10 other languages including Marathi, Telugu and Bengali.
Their regional content strategy has taken off well and has received positive response from the audience. As you can see, the Hindi article has 650 shares and the Tamil content has over 200 shares. The website is updating their regional language pages everyday with interesting articles.
So if you are convinced that regional content marketing is important, here are a few things to consider.
It’s easy to ignore other languages if one dominant language makes up the majority. While English does make for the majority, there is a section that only consumes content in a regional language and this section could be your most important target audience. An English creative gets 0.1% to 0.15% Click Through Ratio (CTR), while a language creative can get 0.4-0.5% CTR. So if a language content and creative has a change to drive more traffic to your product or website, why not concentrate more on it?
When you market your brand in a regional language, it appeals to the emotional quotient of the audience. So localization of content should be an integral part of the creation process. For instance, McDonald’s involves its international teams at an early stage of product development, ensuring it can adapt their most effective marketing strategies to each individual culture where its campaigns are rolled out. Its in-country translation and localization teams ensure that the content strikes the right note in each country.
Your ultimate goal of participating in social media is likely to drive traffic back to your website so you can convert those visitors into leads. Without pitching brands directly, content marketing looks at generating relevant content that educates and creates awareness among customers. It has become an important marketing avenue for the fund-crunched startups to compete with the bigger brands. But it is very important that your content is unique and engaging for your customers. Duplicate or low-quality content can prove to be counter-productive. Once your regional content is up and running, the next step is to ensure that it reaches your target audience. There are many content amplification techniques that can help you promote your content to a large audience. The content strategy needs to be integrated with your social media marketing. It can be key to engaging consumers and many brands are successfully adopting this for their overseas marketing efforts. This video tells you why adopting a multilingual strategy is the only way to connect with the next billion Internet users in India.