Helion Venture Partners this morning announced that they have invested in LinguaNext, a market leading language management platform for software applications. We caught up with Alok Goyal, Partner, Helion Venture Partners, to understand the philosophy behind the investment.
YS: Why did you invest in LinguaNext and tell us about the vernacular languages market?
AG: Given the growing penetration of software in everyday life at work and home, there is an increasing need to have the applications available in languages other than English. Language translation of software applications has largely been a manual and service intensive task. Linguanext brings a product based approach to language translation, making the process very scalable and accurate. Helion was impressed by Linguanext’s ability to successfully deploy its solutions at some of the largest companies in India and globally. Most importantly, Linguanext has a world class founding team – Rajeevlochan Phadke (CTO) has deep expertise in the field of multilingual support for the digital world, and Jagdish Sahasrabudhe (CEO) brings more than two decades of global sales experience.
Linguanext is a perfect example of a software product company that can only come from an emerging economy, in a market where there is a large non-English speaking population. They have created unique IP, have been successful in partnering with and selling to some of the world’s largest companies and have a world class management team with complementary skills.
YS: What are some of the challenges when it comes to developing software for vernacular languages and building ventures in this space?
AG: Typically, software product companies create a product intended for a composite market where users speak and understand one common language, usually English. The problem arises when the product goes global, and users conversant in other languages need to use this software. The key challenge is the massive manual translation exercise of the software code that runs into several months. Linguify, Linguanext’s product, negates this challenge.
YS: What makes you so excited about the LinguaNext opportunity?
AG: The problem that Linguanext is solving is universal and massive. To get a sense of the magnitude here are some statistics:
90% of the literates in India are literate only in their local language and do not read/write English. China has more than a billion people who are literate but are not “English literate”. Even outside of India and China, there are many other languages, e.g. there are more than 200 million native Arabic speakers.
The fact is that all human beings are either already “touching” software or will very soon in one form or another. This could be for education, health, access at work, for citizen services, entertainment, etc. Software is traditionally written in English or a few other major languages. Linguanext will allow software developers to make applications available to people across language barriers.
The impact, therefore, is not just commercial for Linguanext, but also the increase in access to information and services to much larger part of the world.
YS: LinguaNext truly touches the aam aadmi.
AG: Linguanext, in a true sense, is allowing the power of software applications to be available to the “aam aadmi”; essentially allowing a democratization of software for the masses which could not otherwise access applications for dearth of specific language skills applicable only to the elite. For example, within a corporate, typically the use of software is limited to the white collar workers, but Linguanext technology will allow factory workers, transportation employees and others in similar roles to directly access software applications in a language of their choice. The value is even more when it comes to citizen services and government employees, where access to applications is required in multiple languages. As mobile applications penetrate the “masses” not only in India, but across many emerging countries, the need for local language based applications is even higher. We expect LinguaNext to become the de facto language management platform across all kinds of devices and software applications.