DeGlobalisation: Finally, Net enters Bharat, leaves India behind!

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 09, 2018

With the exponential expansion of the Internet into semi-urban and rural areas across the country, the local languages of Bharat are surpassing the use of English in India as increasing digital literacy and equality revolutionises relationships in the second most continuous and oldest civilization in the world, after China.

In the last two years alone, Hindi has emerged as the dominant regional language amongst news hunters, followed by Telugu, Tamil and Bengali, as the Indian language-enabled Internet eco-system evolves further. Internet is increasingly becoming affordable to rural areas where newer, bigger markets are emerging, forcing marketers to design specific products and content for these rural markets. English-based Internet helped globalise the world economy in the last two decades; now, with the reverse trend of deglobalisation, regional languages are replacing English as means of digital communication.

App-based startup Way2Online, which offers short-format news in nine languages (including English), is, therefore, expanding its network to include two more languages, Oriya and Punjabi, in the next two months.

“Our people have a high local and emotional connect with their mother tongue. True Indians, now using the Internet, are leading this paradigm shift,” an expert said.

“We have a lot a demand for news in local languages. Our app has been downloaded by 1.3 crore users since inception in 2015 and we have an average 10 lakh visitors daily. Of these, 78 per cent consume news in local languages and 22 per cent in English. Among the regional languages, Hindi is on top, with 30 per cent users, followed by Telugu, Tamil and Bengali,” Raju Vanapala, founder-CEO of the Hyderabad-based technology company, told BusinessLine. The startup has professional editors to run its multiple-language news services.

The trend has just started, he asserted.

He said English content is used only by about 15 crore Indians, while the remaining 110 crore people are potential users of regional languages in this power shift. India no longer has just one English-centric market, but is an umbrella of 15 different language-based markets.

The Way2Online portfolio boasts of a messaging service (4.5 crore users), an SMSing brand (two crore users), a short news app in local languages (with 70 crore screen-views per month), a data-driven marketing platform, an online marketplace, a product search and comparison engine and a mobile e-commerce ad network.

According to an April 2017 KPMG report, 70 per cent Indian language users face challenges in using English keyboards, 60 per cent stated limited language support and content to be the largest barrier for adoption of online services, and 30 per cent are aware of the online content but not comfortable using the online medium.

Also, 99 per cent of Indian language users access the Internet through their mobile phones. The overall share of Internet users in India accessing the Internet through mobile devices is 78 per cent, while 68 per cent consider local language digital content more reliable than English. Currently, Tamil has the highest Internet adoption levels, followed by Hindi and Kannada among the Indian languages.

And, the report said, 88 per cent of Indian language Internet users are more likely to respond to a digital advertisement in their local language as compared to English. By 2021, out of 53.6 crore Internet users, 38 per cent are projected to be users of Hindi, followed by Marathi (9 per cent) and Tamil (8 per cent).

Currently, nearly 35 per cent of the Indian population uses the Internet.

The recent launch of local dictionaries in Tamil and Gujarati by Oxford shows how much the use of local content is rising. Google is also focusing on building local language content. It added the voice search feature for eight more Indian languages recently.

These moves have led to a new debate on going back-to-the roots of India Inc. compared to the 1990s heat of globalisation, when many people wanted their children to converse only in English, the Internet-friendly, globally-accepted language. Now, again, mobile phones are being enabled in local languages. Even socially, the trend of local language consumption is rising in an India, which is unique in its diversity and pluralism.

Published on August 23, 2017

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