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Regional languages 'a matter of hygiene'

News, 04 March 2016

NEW DELHI: More digital brands and services in India are using regional languages as a matter of course to tap into a huge market that doesn't speak or read Hindi or English.

Quikr, the online classifieds platform, is one that has only recently gone down this route and is now available in seven Indian languages, with all vernacular versions showing ads in the same language – and that includes third party ads as well as those posted by users.

"We are not waiting for it to become a rule," Vineet Sehgal, CMO of Quikr, told the Economic Times. "Regional languages for our interface is a matter of hygiene for us now."

The co-founder of one start-up offering local language solutions for the internet suggested that there was often a lack of awareness at senior levels. "Most decision makers at the top are literate," said Arvind Pani of Reverie Language Tech. "It's difficult for them to understand the magnitude of the problem."

And he argued that hard facts could help persuade them of the need to change: he reported that a quarter of his clients had seen a 15% increase in traffic within three months of taking up the service.

One digital business that embraced this approach early in its development was Dailyhunt, a multilingual news aggregator that now claims more than 90m app installs. English accounts for a mere 5% of its page views while Hindi takes 35%, the remaining 60% being divided among vernacular languages.

"No matter how you slice and dice, you only reach 100m users through English," noted Vishal Anand, Dailyhunt's chief product officer. "You need to embrace vernacular to capture the next wave of 1.2bn users."

That's clearly not without cost implications. "It's a pain for traditional marketers to run a campaign in eight to ten different languages but that's what's required," said Anil Nair, CEO & managing partner, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi.

"Tech players are increasingly going regional for they know their survival depends on consumer adoption," he added.

Data sourced from Economic Times; Additional content by Warc staff