2018 has been a great year for the Indian language internet, and for Indic localization. It set the stage for certain trends that we feel will dominate the localization industry in 2019.
While the show was stolen in 2017 by technological advances in Indian language localization, this year has primarily seen a shift in attitudes towards the same. Or in other words, the way people think about Indic localization has been seeing a shift towards a more holistic approach, one that focuses more on the user.
Here are some things we’re looking forward to seeing more of in 2019.
Localizing User Engagement
Having explored content conversion, companies are now exploring localising user engagement. This means enabling platforms to communicate and engage with users in Indian languages.
Two common examples of this would be chatbots, and voice input. Chatbots can walk users through a certain flow in their own language, asking them what they require and giving them options to choose from.
Voice input lets users speak to platforms in their own language to input text, letting them bypass keypads. Since speaking is more intuitive than typing for these users, voice input can open up new opportunities for users. Voice technology for Indian languages will require a sensitivity to various dialects, accents, and even code switching (the linguistic phenomenon of switching between languages).
This push for localized user engagement goes a long way in expanding the scope of options available to your average Indian language user. They’re no longer limited to reading content and being able to create text content. They can now become active participants in the Indian internet project, taking advantage of platforms carry out a wide range of goals.
Companies have generally known about localization and have considered it something good to have, but it was not seen as something essential.
This meant that companies were often reluctant to devote resources to making localization part of their strategy.
Developments in the field, developments reflecting a greater awareness of the importance of Indian language users, have changed that.
Over the course of last year, many major global players have adopted localization as a key part of their India strategy. Amazon Prime for example, is now available in Tamil, Hindi, and Telugu. Amazon’s shopping platform itself is available in Hindi. In addition, Amazon India has stated that this is only the beginning. Support for more and more Indian languages will continue to be added over time.
Amazon India has publicly expressed its desire to reach the average Indian, and that localization is a means to this end. With each language added, a new consumer base gains comfortable, unfettered access to Amazon’s platform, something they are very clear about wanting to capitalize on.
This assertion underlines a very basic fact – if you want Indian consumers, Indian internet users to patronize your platform and convert on it, you can’t alienate these same users with an English only interface. It’s a good sign that companies are now decidedly moving beyond lip service to Indian languages.
As always, once a major company has chosen to adopt localization, other companies in the same space start looking to incorporate it too. It moves up the ladder of priorities from something a platform could potentially benefit from but isn’t essential, and becomes established as part of basic hygiene. Something that should be considered from the beginning.
This in turn gives localization a huge boost. Companies will now need localization solutions for more and more use cases, solving more and more problems.
Building For Bhārat First
Another interesting development is the rise of Indian language user centric platforms.
For many years in India, English language users were seen as a digital platform’s default user base. Platforms were created with them in mind, and catered to the whims of their user behavior. To be fair though, the Indian language internet user base had not yet taken shape, much less grown to its current size. This was before the unprecedented spread of virtually free internet (courtesy Jio) and cheap internet supported handsets had swept the nation, in a major telecom revolution that brought the internet closer than it had ever been to India’s masses, the same masses who would go on to become Indian language internet users.
What this meant for Indian companies was that they could now choose to focus on building solutions for Indian language users first, if their platform was more relevant to them.
Many Indian tech startups dealing with very Indian problems have been building their solutions ground up in Indian languages. They include ShareChat, MyUpchar, GetVokal, Mooshak, BoonBox, and more.
This is a sign that English has ceased to be the unquestionable default for Indian companies, and that it’s being acknowledged that problems for Indian language users require different approaches.
A Boost To Indic Localization
These developments – a greater focus on localized user engagement, increasing acceptance and adoption of Indic localization in strategy, as well as building solutions in Indian languages ground up – show how attitudes to Indian languages online have changed, both for users, and companies. They both hold good signs for the growth of the Indian language internet in 2019, as well as users of these languages.
With every passing year, the Indian internet’s inherent Indian language character continues to be emphasized more and more.