Localisation Trumps English in India

Tech Companies Need to Adapt to the Local Lingua on the Subcontinent

India_Internet_lTechnology companies looking to cater to the many millions of Indians who are expected to soon buy their first smartphones need to understand one thing: most of these citizens communicate and access the Internet in their local languages. The fact that India has 22 officially recognised languages and thousands of local dialects is likely to prove a challenge for many foreign and even local companies, particularly smaller market entrants that lack the resources to tailor their products and services to regional demand needs.

It should be noted that even though English is an official federal-level language of India, the majority of the population doesn't have command of it. So although the interface of most smartphones and tablets sold in the country is in English, and many services are available in English and Hindi, these are nearly useless for many potential users.

One success story is WhatsApp, which has more than 200 million active monthly users in India. The company has jumped on the vernacular bandwagon by offering 11 regional languages. Its parent Facebook supports 13 languages. To help businesses communicate better with their customers, WhatsApp rolled out its free WhatsApp Business service on Android devices, aimed at small companies. The app lets customers view information such as a business description, e-mail and physical addresses and Web site.

Google, which is currently present in nine Indian languages, has an immediate incentive to offer better regional support, as the advertising market in local languages is expected to grow exponentially. The company recently launched AdWords and AdSense in Tamil, which is spoken by 43 million people. It has also started to orchestrate events that bring together content creators and advertisers from across this populous country.

In addition to dominant international companies such as Facebook and Google, Indian entrepreneurs are finding ways to customise their products to the local level. Indus OS is an Indian company that has tailored a mobile operating system to local needs. The company claims to be the world's first regional operating system made for smartphones in India and other emerging markets. Its entire strategy centres on the linguistic complexities of the country: its operating system supports 12 languages that can switch to English and back with just a swipe. Google's Android platform requires seven steps to translate into a local language. It's not surprising that Indus now has an estimated 8 percent smartphone market share in India. This compares with 2 percent for iOS and over 80 percent for Android.

Of course, in the long term it will be very difficult for a small operating system provider to rival the mighty Google and Apple when it comes to the app ecosystem, but the current success of Indus shows that Western companies should pay more attention to localisation if they want to power the more than 900 million smartphones expected to be sold in India over the next five years.

Social media, messaging platforms and hardware makers that fail to quickly adapt to this trend are in line to be disrupted by more nimble competitors. India is a country filled with avid users of information and entertainment content, and for much of the population, English is moving aside in the pursuit of vernacular glory. From here on, the boom in smartphone usage in India will come not from users who understand English, but from those who speak one of the country's many other languages. Future success in India will be linked to companies' ability to improvise and innovate at the local level.

This entry was posted on April 13th, 2018 and is filed under Services. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or you can leave a response.

Posted By Raghu Gopal On April 13th, 2018

(There are no comments yet)
Leave a Comment

Hot News

Team Tweets

CCS Insight
Amazon has released a lightweight Web browser for Android users, part of the company's larger strategy in India: https://t.co/nj5RAJzDXe
Follow CCS Insight
Shaun Collins
RT @kestermann: Just published - our take on Telefonica’s 1Q. My stand-out metric: 7.8% growth in multiplay ARPU in Spain. Impressive give…
Follow Shaun
Ben Wood
RT @UploadVR: Don't worry -- #VR isn't going anywhere! https://t.co/62Vp1uVm7m
Follow Ben
Martin Garner
Amazing earnings for @facebook today in spite of recent scandals, though the full impact of those will not play out… https://t.co/JhkJGYYyVS
Follow Martin
Geoff Blaber
Results like this not helpful to Facebook in current climate. This will only raise the volume on concerns $FB https://t.co/7UXtD3tspY
Follow Geoff
Marina Koytcheva
Excellent opportunity to join CCS Insight in a sales role https://t.co/YPKeT8OymK
Follow Marina
Nicholas McQuire
Got up close + personal with the iconic #IBM RAMAC today: the first commercial computer with magnetic disk drive fo… https://t.co/svt9ULV3VH
Follow Nicholas
Paolo Pescatore
Our take on Comcast 1Q18 results and formal offer for Sky https://t.co/fCvlYLT3cS $CMCSA $SKY $DIS $FOXA https://t.co/wmDLexAf78
Follow Paolo
Kester Mann
Just published - our take on Telefonica’s 1Q. My stand-out metric: 7.8% growth in multiplay ARPU in Spain. Impress… https://t.co/r4PRdbD8gI
Follow Kester
George Jijiashvili
RT @benwood: Fossil partners with Puma to offer smartwatches. A good brand to use for sports and fitness smartwatches which is one of the k…
Follow George
Laura Simeonova
RT @benwood: P20 devices testament to Huawei's ambition in smartphone market. Consistently improving design, capabilities and appeal of its…
Follow Laura
Katie Taylor
New article up on the site! I look at the effect of GP apps on the NHS. https://t.co/O8Akt36l2G
Follow Katie

Recent Blog Posts

Blog Post
Amazon Releases a Light Mobile Browser "Internet" Is an Android Web Browser for Emerging Markets L... Read more
Blog Post
Huawei Flaunts Its 5G Plans Unveils 5G Device Road Map at Its Global Analyst Summit Las... Read more
Blog Post
The Chips Are Down for ZTE Chinese Phone-Maker Removed from US Smartphone Gene Pool La... Read more
More blog

Latest Company News

Blog Post
Phone-Makers Betting on 5G Devices to Overcome Smartphone Slump Research firm CCS Insight forecasts dips in demand for mobil... Read more
More news