by Tejaswi Subramanian
It’s been 69 years since the Constituent Assembly announced that Hindi would be the official language for the Indian Union. This was India’s statement that she was decolonising herself from the tyranny of English, and embracing her own linguistic roots. Today, the process continues, and it has spilled into the digital arena in the form of content localisation. As the Digital India campaign trickles deeper into India’s 3000+ Tier-II and –III cities, digital content in regional languages are fast-becoming the rule of the day.
Given how intricately Hindi and its variants are tied up with the cultures of populous states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, it is not surprising to note that it is the most popular choice for Indian content creators online. For instance, on Momspresso, India’s largest user-generated content platform for mothers and young parents, Hindi blogs have seen a record high of over 30million views per month! Since its inception, more than 14,000 Hindi blog posts have been created, and it has built a community of over 1500 bloggers who add an average of 1,623 posts every month to its blogroll. These are mostly moms writing on their smartphones through the app in cities like Lucknow, Jaipur, Agra, Chandigarh, Indore, and Patna. This burgeoning engagement has led to leading brands like Dove, Dettol, and Pampers to tap into Momspresso’s audience.
Of India’s literate population, 89% read and write their vernacular languages. To promote internet access, it is key to go beyond just building the physical infrastructure. The content being created should be made accessible and relatable to this demographic as well! A study jointly conducted by The Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB International in 2015 suggested that this move could boost Internet growth in India by 24%.
Hubhopper, an AI-based podcast and news aggregator app, has also noticed this trend among its listening community. “The stories of Premchand, Mahabharata, and the teachings of Gita in Hindi and other regional languages are among the most listened-to podcasts on our app over the past few weeks,” said a spokesperson from Hubhopper. “18% of all our podcasts are in Indic languages, of this 10% are in Hindi. Other languages close at its heels are Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.”
With the advent of video and its popularity on social media, our attention also needs to be on localising new media! This includes live performances, over-the-top (OTT) content such as audio and video formats, digital voice services by voice-led assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, as well as AR/VR products that are set to take over the market in the coming years.
A few years ago, content creation in Indic languages was languishing in the hobbyist’s corner. There was little revenue in it, and hardly anyone engaged in it professionally. However, with hindi content consumption growing at 94% and the recognition of over a million speakers in each of the regional languages like Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, and Urdu, digital marketers and their branded clientele are taking note. Driven by this, Indic computing will soon gain support in the form of more robust hardware and software ecosystems, and in my books, that will be the true beginning of a Digital India.
Tejaswi Subramanian is a senior sub editor at Qrius.
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