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Digital needs new language in India

News, 16 March 2016

MUMBAI: Brands looking to grow in India must navigate the challenging areas of language and connectivity when it comes to digital strategy, a top planner has advised.

Ashwath Ganesan, national head of planning at OgilvyOne in Mumbai, writes in an exclusive article for Warc that advertisers must consider local language content and slow connectivity when growing their brands outside of India's main cities.

Unlike the nation's traditional channel marketers, India's digital marketers have largely focused on English language content. But the fastest growing digital demographics are non-English speakers, and overall English proficiency remains relatively low – an estimated 10% of the total population.

Ganesan believes brands in India must diversify their content strategies to account for a variety of languages, and the cultural idiosyncrasies associated with them.

Though examples exist – digital work for Cadbury Five-Star (a young, quirky brand) has largely been "Hinglish", the local pidgin of Hindi and English – the vast majority of communication remains aimed at a highly literate, English-speaking audience.

Independent content creators in India have leapt in where brands are sluggish. 2015 saw an explosion of locally relevant content delivered in regional languages. Tamil Nadu alone has seen parkour artists, rappers, and comedians all achieving success in their local language of Tamil.

India's brands are also grappling with the country's digital revolution amid slow connectivity speeds because the majority of mobile internet users in India are still running on a 2G network.

Ganesan believes this connectivity gap has created two classes of digital consumer: One group – English-speaking and affluent – has the ability to consume video, stream audio, and engage with compelling digital activations.

The other group, regional language speaking and massive in scale, is effectively unable to access any of that content due to cripplingly low speeds. This divide has huge ramifications for brands, with each group requiring a different strategy.

For further information about what trends Indian advertisers can anticipate in 2016, click here.

Data sourced from Warc