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
US carriers team up to offer a solution to improve online authentication: https://t.co/6DsCqlfk5U
Follow CCS Insight
Shaun Collins
Think about this quote every time I walk across the Thames into the City. Timeless. https://t.co/8h8lWq8Nez
Follow Shaun
Ben Wood
RT @nickmcquire: “Our success is dependent on your success. That’s what engenders trust in the long term”. Key sentence. Trust has become n…
Follow Ben
Martin Garner
#msignite2018 @Microsoft -15 #IoT and #EdgeComputing releases. Includes Azure Digital Twin, Azure IoT Platform supp… https://t.co/3DD8pBFN4o
Follow Martin
Geoff Blaber
This is going to become a globally contentious theme for #5G. The 4G infrastructure approach won't work with 5G but… https://t.co/NMaPf8tZVT
Follow Geoff
Marina Koytcheva
RT @KGeorgieva: My #UNGA fact of the day: 1 in 2 women in low income countries cannot prove their ID. This limits their access to critical…
Follow Marina
Angela Ashenden
There are now 329,000 organisations using @MicrosoftTeams - incredible growth over the last six months, accelerated… https://t.co/vQ09JIxvz8
Follow Angela
Kester Mann
RT @benwood: Mystery shopping the iPhone Xs Max. Very constrained stock in-store across all UK channels. Not available till “at least 20th…
Follow Kester
George Jijiashvili
@benwood @podtrackers @PankajKedia '@podtrackers, guys - you're missing a trick here. Make a St. Bernard-exclusive… https://t.co/7SDNuYvbQo
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
Not too early to test out @sketchbookapp on the @SamsungMobile Note 8
Follow Katie

Recent Blog Posts

Blog Post
US Carriers Partner for Project Verify Initiative Will Use Smartphones to Unlock Online Accounts S... Read more
Blog Post
Walmart to Deploy Oculus Headsets in US Stores Will Workplace Training Be Virtual Reality's Saviour? Virtu... Read more
Blog Post
Google Nets Big Android Win in Cars Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to Embed Android Last we... Read more
More blog

Latest Company News

Blog Post
Networks' Ambitions to Launch 5G Early Raise Global Forecast New CCS Insight forecast predicts 5G connections will reac... Read more
More news