There is no denying that English is a lingua franca in India as it is in many parts of the world. It enjoys the prestige of an official language and is more of a status symbol in our society.
But, of late, vernacular languages are coming to the forefront to establish their supremacy as a mode of communication in the changing linguistic scenario. Majority of the Indian population prefer their digital content in regional languages.
A report titled, “Indian Languages: Defining India’s Internet,” based on a study conducted by Google in partnership with KPMG, has revealed that Hindi internet users were likely to outnumber English user base by 2021. Marathi and Bengali users will drive the volume growth, the report added.
The report also cited that Tamil, Kannada and Telugu speakers will be among the most digitally engaged people in a period between 2016 and 2021.
Net surfers in vernacular languages have grown from 42 million in 2011 to 234 million in 2016.
The report stated that currently there were 234 million Indian language internet users compared to 175 million surfers in the language of colonial masters. The former figure is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18 per cent to reach 536 million in 2021. On the other hand, English users are expected to grow at a CAGR of three per cent.
Raju Vanapala, Founder and CEO, Way2Online and Pallav Bajjuri, CEO, Kahaniya, told the Entrepreneur India that local language digital content would witness greater acceptance in near future.
Make Multi-Lingual Apps To Tap New Local Language Users
Vanapala said the phenomenal increase in the use of smart phones and affordable Internet packages have set a new trend of internet usage in India. These new set of net surfers can access services in their regional languages, he added. This has led to an increased acceptance and even demand of local language digital content on the mobile, he pointed out.
English dominated the content on the Net till a few years ago, but this has completely changed, he said, adding Net users are estimated to reach 500 million mark in the next five years.
“Considering that India is a multi-language market, a majority of the internet businesses are making their app multilingual to tap the new local language users,” he said.
The Notion Of ‘Regional Language Apps’ Will Last Long
Bajjuri said, “I think the notion of ‘regional language apps’ will last for long. Very soon, every app will have to support regional languages if the makers and companies want to tap the Indian market.”
He said soon there would be an exponential increase in the demand for regional language content, where specialized apps or platforms would find a foothold.
“Between Hotstar and Netflix, more Indians will likely download Hotstar as it has a lot of regional language content. Even in news, Dailyhunt is more popular than Flipboard in our country, because fundamentally language is not just about spoken or written words, it’s also about culture, familiarity and things that matter to us every day,” he added.
Kahaniya is a platform to read short fiction e-books in regional language.
Regional Languages Becoming Prominent In Entertainment Segment
Uday Sodhi, Executive Vice-President and Head, Digital Business, Sony Pictures Networks said regional languages are becoming prominent in the digital entertainment sector.
“We are stepping into the second phase of internet growth. In the first phase, we saw that people from metro cities taking to the internet were mainly consuming English or Hindi content. With Net’s penetration to smaller towns or regional centers, the regional language content is growing fast. In tandem with the changing trend, we are looking Hindi and English for our entertainment content,” he explained.