Is language the key to hooking India on the web?
Among the languages Indians are using to get on the web are Urdu, Hindi and Tamil. However, with over 30 languages and 1500 dialects, hooking India on the web isn’t quite as easy as it is some other countries.
It’s not enough for companies to use English to connect with India, to really tap into the Indian markets they need to market their services in some of the more common Indian languages. With 120 million internet users, India is the third largest internet user after China and the USA, meaning that there is a massive audience out there to appeal to.
There is currently very little web content in Indian languages, which is creating a barrier between companies and non English speaking Indians. Fortunately, Yahoo India is working to break down this barrier by offering email in eight of India’s regional languages, and linking up with Indian newspapers as language partners.
But content isn’t the only problem.
Technology is also essential for internet users in India. Of the 120 million internet users, 20 million use only their mobile phones to access the internet. As Indian languages do not use Roman script, it can be difficult to adapt technology used in Western countries for Indian users.
To tackle this problem, an Indian company called Luna Ergonomics have developed the ‘Panini keyboard’, an app which enables users to type messages in 11 major Indian languages. The app can also be applied to television remote controls and ATM machines, and they are currently working on adapting the software for China, Japan and Korea.
Other companies working to appeal to more users in India include Windows 2000, which now supports 12 Indian languages, Adobe InDesign CS6, which supports 10 Indian languages, and Wikipedia, which is hoping to develop in 25 Indian languages!
Less than 8% of the country’s population currently access the internet so the potential for expansion is huge! Although English will appeal to users in some of the larger cities, to really connect with India, companies will have to look at marketing in some of the country’s 30 languages.
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