Internet for the Next 300 Million
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Multiculturalism is part of the Indian society, and with that comes the huge diversity in languages. There is a popular aphorism that depicts India’s linguistic diversity rather well: Kos-kos par badle paani, chaar kos par baani (The language spoken in India changes every few kilometres, just like the taste of the water). In his bestseller novel Shantaram, David Roberts has beautifully described how people visiting India are astounded by the diversity in India, both in terms of languages and customs. According to reports, there are an estimated 521 million Hindi speakers in India and over 500 million people who speak one or more of the country’s other 21 languages. Even though there are more than 125 million English speakers in India, only about a quarter million speak it as their first language.
The global economy is shifting from the English speaking world and the use of diverse foreign languages on the Internet has changed in the last few years for global communication and for commercial purposes. Social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are allowing users to correspond through local languages. In Latin America, the use of Spanish and Portuguese is rising, and in South Asia, Hindi and Urdu are gaining popularity. As economies around the world become increasingly international, demand for languages continues to grow. The significance of foreign language skills for graduates cannot be undervalued.
As India’s innovation industry matures, it’s beginning to create truly unique solutions to India’s truly unique needs. This is facilitated by extremely competitive rates of internet access, owing to an increase in the number of service providers. There is a rise in demand for regional vernacular content as hundreds of millions of rural Indians are connecting to the internet for the first time.
Although major platforms already exist in this space and have been successful in capturing a large audience, there lies a huge opportunity in tapping the next wave of Internet users in the country from startups that engage in the same languages personally and professionally.
These startups are focussing on leveraging vernacular ideas, groups and target audience to allow a limited audience to see varied and high-quality content. Such startups enable original ideas to grow, gain a platform and get showcased to an audience that can relate to it. Though
English continues to be the fastest growing language in India, there is a huge demand for content in regional languages. This presents an enormous opportunity for startups to innovate, create and distribute content to build high-consumption content platforms. In fact, Netflix has grabbed this opportunity in India, considering the huge amount of regional content available on their platform.
Moreover, investments in content start-ups are picking up the pace, as venture capital (VC) firms bet that indigenous content will attract Internet users despite concerns over the ability of these companies to generate digital advertising revenues in a business dominated by Google and Facebook Inc.
Such startups are providing a range of content to consumers from long-form narrative web series to short-form news reports on local events. Trends show that the fastest and most efficient way for vernacular platforms to meet demands of the regional audience for content in their local language is by generating high-quality video and audio content attracting to niche target groups that drive high engagement with consumers. Their distribution strategy is more localized and easy to stream out if the content is targeted. Localization, in turn, helps these media startups to meet the needs of a more restricted group, which leads to customer retention.
Media startups are on the rise and bolster a tough competition to the big names in the market. Concentrated, targeted and descriptive content for target users allows startups to understand the needs of consumers easily, hence furnishing what they want in the language they understand. The race is on.