While India is slated to see a vast increase in the number of internet users within the next few years in the wake of the Digital India campaign, Internet companies are gearing up to introduce more regional language content to engage these new users.
By the middle of next year, India is expected to have about 460 million internet users, making it the second largest internet user base in the world, according to a recent report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI). Over the past year, the numbers have grown already by 49 per cent and about three quarters of these new users use their mobiles to surf the internet.
However, the Indian internet consumer is vastly changing as more and more individuals from rural towns and villages are logging in. They will constitute about half the internet user population by 2018, and would surf the internet in local languages, says the report.
Indian language internet is of prime importance now and companies are heavily investing in it. Just 0.1 per cent of the web content is in Indian languages, while 56 per cent is in English.
“In the last one year alone, Hindi content on the web has grown by about 94 per cent year on year, whereas English content is growing only at 19 per cent year on year,” stated a Google spokesperson.
The Indian Language Internet Alliance is a Google India initiated group of companies which would help put content in regional languages online. The alliance, which has 30 partner companies at present, was formulated last year with ABP News, Network 18 and Jagran Prakashan Ltd among the first set of partners.
The regional language focus is also important from the marketing point of view. “Once the user base increases it becomes easier for digital companies to convince brands to spend on their platform,” said BG Mahesh, founder and MD of Oneindia.com.
“Brands are now interested in reaching users across India, especially Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns. What can be a better platform than Internet to reach Tier-2 and Tier-3 users at a far lesser cost than traditional media which is print and TV?” he asked.
Speaking on Facebook shares of Hindi stories, Samir Patil, CEO of Scroll media, said that “it is on the same scale as English”. This shows that the character of the Indian internet is changing rapidly. “We see creating mobile first experience and share-worthy stories for languages as a big opportunity,” said Patil.
Hindi sites are being launched by several known media companies. Satyagrah.com, a Hindi news site, was launched by Scroll Media, while InShorts introduced Hindi versions.
“Users want to consume content/services in a language they are most comfortable with,” said Mahesh, pointing out that it wasn’t only the content companies who benefitted from introducing local languages.
“All Internet companies stand to benefit by promoting regional languages. Definitely services like railway booking, apparel, electronics can benefit a lot by having their sites in regional languages,” he added.
Hindi and Tamil versions have been introduced by e-retailer websites such as Snapdeal and Shopclues. It is expected that other such companies will soon follow their lead.