Indian start-ups add vernacular languages to expand reach

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on January 04, 2018

Aspiring Indian start-ups are increasingly adopting vernacular languages to reach out to the masses in the country.

BetterButter, an Indian site offering 50,000-plus recipes in English, Hindi, Tamil and Marathi, is all set to add Telugu, Gujarati and Bengali in the first quarter of 2018-19. “Ours is the largest user-created data content in India with over 5,000 videos and recipes added per month,” Sukhmani Bedi, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO), told BusinessLine.

Its Hindi service, launched in March 2017, has seen over two lakh hits and Tamil more than 25,000. The Marathi version, opened in December 2017, has seen more than 5,000 hits.

CreditHealth was launched by Ravi Virmani in January 2014 as an interface between patients and doctors/hospitals.

“Since 80 per cent of our patients are from smaller towns and cities, and are uninsured and cash-payers, we began to adopt Indian vernacular languages so they could understand what they were paying for. We have so far launched our services in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada and are now adding a language every month — Bengali, Malayalam, Gujarati et al.

He said the market for English-speaking Indians was virtually “saturated” and it made a perfect business sense to go to various Indian vernacular languages to tap the emerging opportunities.

In the next couple of years, Virmani said, around 80 crore Indians are expected to have smartphones with 4G technology and most of them will be using mobile phones to access services, thus increasing regional digital consumption. “The number of our users has increased by 10-12% in the last four months.”

CreditHealth gets nearly nine lakh hits a month and services 3,000 patients adding up to Rs.50-60 crore worth of value to the health market.

Mayank Bhangadiya, Co-Founder and CEO, Roposo, founded in 2014 as a social entertainment platform, now has a user-base of 50 lakh. “Apart from English, we recently launched our interface in eight regional languages - Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. In a short span of time, we noticed an increase of 18% in the time spent by Telugu users, 16.3% in Kannada and 15% increase in time spent by Hindi users.”

Roposo now plans to further introduce apps in Malyalam, Odiya, Assamese, and other languages. Around 90 per cent of the 700 million literates in India can read and write at least one of India’s major local languages. Over 60% of rural users consider language a barrier to access the Internet. Increased use of Indian languages on the Internet will come as a relief to them. Also, one can share content without running the risk of their message being lost in translation, he said.

According to a KPMG-Goggle study, he said, by 2021 an expected 201 million Hindi users – 38% of the Indian internet user base – will be online. The growth of any website or app would be possible only if they are able to expand and increase their audience as English-speaking netizens are already a part of the online hub, Bhangadiya added.

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Published on January 04, 2018
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