The Indian internet is, as we claim, seeing a second spurt of growth, this time driven by the availability of Indian language support on digital devices. Similarly, digital content in Indian languages is seeing explosive growth as well.
While the nature of the Indian internet and its users is still being studied and observed, insights point very clearly to one thing – Indians are big on online entertainment. It’s one of the biggest verticals accessed by Indian internet users. In fact, 14% of the average Indian’s time is spent on entertainment.
The push for more content
The numbers are telling. According to a Google-KPMG study, there were 234 million Indian language users in 2016, 90% of whom accessed digital entertainment, a number projected to touch 392 million in 5 years.
Entertainment companies of course, are only too aware of this fact, and are in a mad rush to put out and license as much quality content as possible to gain an advantage over their competitors. This includes, of course, providing lots and lots content in Indian languages to ensure they can keep growing, taking advantage of the Indian language dominant nature of the Indian internet.
Online entertainment includes entertainment apps, including video on demand (VoD) providers.
VoD and its requirements
VoD providers are caught up in the rush for new content, just like anyone else in the entertainment industry. However, given the nature of their platforms – heavily search & discovery reliant, with optimized and personalized interfaces – content by itself isn’t enough.
Here’s something that’s often overlooked in this mad rush to put out more and more content : The battle for VoD supremacy isn’t on the content front alone.
VoD for the Indian user
While VoD providers are scrambling to bring out more content in Indian languages, scant attention is being paid to the platforms themselves.
In fact, the companies that have joined the fray have not localized their platforms in those very same Indian languages. A person can watch Telugu movies on Hotstar or Amazon Prime, but can’t use their app or site in Telugu. There is very minimal, if any, platform level localization.
What this means is that the very same platforms that are busy providing content to Indian language audiences are not putting comparable effort into actually making those platforms accessible to users of these languages.
That seems odd, doesn’t it?
Most Indians prefer using the internet and consuming content in their own language, but the platforms themselves are optimized for an English user’s experience, something that needs to be addressed.
After all, what’s the point of putting all that content up if it’s not accessible?
The disconnect between interface and content
Imagine a massive library of Indian language content. Hundreds of titles, across languages, catering to different demographics and audiences. The catch? You can’t find any of these titles, unless you manually crawl through a directory, and even if you do, you can’t read the summaries, or even their titles – because they’re all in English, and you don’t know English.
That’s basically similar to the experience VoD platforms currently offer their users.
The good news is that this can be fixed, starting with the platform interfaces themselves.
Interface is critical to user experience. Your platform’s interface is what your user will have to interact with and use if they are to find what they’re looking for and actually use your platform.
To put it another way, the first step of VoD localization is on a very basic level, an almost entirely design based level.
The platforms themselves should have options that let the user choose their interface language, preferably when they open the platform for the first time.
Once that’s been done, all text content on the platform needs to appear in the language of their choice. From categories, to options, to menus, to prompts, to notifications. Everything.
Another aspect of this is the text content that accompanies every content entry on a platform. It includes a summary of the piece of content, and its title. These need to be localized as well. Users should be able to read titles in their own languages, and summaries as well.
Search & discovery
Okay. So you’ve put out great content. You’ve hosted it on your platform. You’ve made the platform itself Indian language friendly. Now what?
The next step of VoD localization, to close the loop, so to speak, is to enable Indic search and discovery. Content is on your platform and it’s available in the user’s language. Now, they need to be able to look for it, find it, and navigate through it to get sift through the options available and get to what they’re looking for.
For example, searching for நாயகன் or नायक on a platform should take you to the respective (localized) movie pages in Tamil and Hindi respectively.
In a previous piece, we talked about Indic search, why it matters, and how to incorporate it, in more detail.
Once your platform has been optimized for Indian language users, you could potentially go even further and help make your content itself more accessible to them. There’s a lot of great content that isn’t in one’s language, and bringing language support to it would significantly increase the options available to a user.
One application of language tech here would be closed captioning.
The way it works is automated, with the system taking a video, isolating the audio files, running them through a speech-to-text engine, and then converting the text to a text file, which can then be used as the source for captions.
What this means is that users will be able to consume content that isn’t necessarily in their language with the help of captions, which are basically subtitles. This in turn grows the amount and scope of content available to users.
While nobody’s denying that content should be your main thrust, it’s impossible to ignore the critical function your platform’s own interface plays in user experience and user adoption. VoD localization is more than just content.
To ensure you’re building your platform for most Indians, Indian language users, you need to make sure that your site or app offers them an immersive, end-to-end experience in their own language, one that will prove frictionless in leading them to what they’re ultimately looking for – good ol’, high quality video content.