Lipikaar: Typing in 18 Indian languages made easier

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An easier way to type in 18 languages on platforms like MS Office, IE, Google Chrome, Mozilla through Lipikaar, a Pune based entrepreneurial venture by Neha Gupta. Swati Maheshwari catches up with her to find out more, exclusively for YourStory.inTell us about Lipikaar. What does it essentially do?

Lipikaar is a unicode-based tool that simplifies typing in 18 Indian languages. The popularity of Lipikaar comes from its SMS-style typing method which is both easy and intuitive.

Lipikaar is the world's first solution to support 15 languages on launch. It was awarded the 2008 Manthan Award in South Asia for its mass appeal and simplicity. Lipikaar has over a dozen new releases for various platforms including Windows Desktop, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.

Our major clients include banking IT solutions providers in India and TV content aggregators. Hindi TV program guides for Airtel, Tata Sky, Reliance and others are written with Lipikaar. So far, it has had 55,000 downloads on Mozilla Firefox alone and recognized on the Mozilla blog for increasing Firefox's appeal among regional users.

How did the idea strike you?

The core concept and method behind Lipikaar was invented and patented by my father, Jugal Gupta, for his business which deals in LED-based programmable scrolling display systems. He wanted to supply these displays to banks in remote corners of India where the messages are displayed in the local language. For example: होम लोन्स. ATM सेवा. क्रेडिट कार्ड सुविधा.

These messages need to be changed often by the bank operator or the bank peon using an ordinary keyboard. The simple QWERTY keyboard required a new method of typing Indian languages without any changes to the keyboard, and without any training so anyone in the bank can learn to type in Hindi, Bengali or any other language in a few minutes on the same keyboard that they used for English. With this in mind, the Lipikaar method was invented.

You are a young woman entrepreneur. Tell us about your journey so far.I started out working for a niche services company after my engineering. I got a chance to be the core developer for a product startup based in the US. That’s when I realized how much fun it is to build something from scratch. This prompted me to later to join a small team as a co-founder for an e-commerce startup. During this period, our team was introduced to the idea of Lipikaar and we felt it was very unique and exciting. We wanted to build products around this market as we believed in removing the language barrier on the Web and PC. Over time I got more excited about Lipikaar and hence decided to lead it while other founders focused on other products. Recently we spun off Lipikaar into a separate company to allow for separate management of the sales and services around Lipikaar.

How big is your team at Lipikaar? Tell us a bit about your team.

We are a core team of 4 people. We also work with a small group of freelancers for specific services such as graphics where we do not have in-house expertise. We also work with a team of dealers who serve as our local sales offices in cities such as Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore.

How did you manage the funding of this venture at the time of inception?

We self-funded the marketing and sales expenses of the product and developed the core IP in-house. We also got some angel funding in the form of software developer resources from Persistent Systems Ltd which we used to develop add-ons, add languages, and increase compatibility of the product across different Windows platforms.

What are the challenges that you face currently while running Lipikaar?

Large companies, where volume sales are possible, move very slowly. One of our large deals took 9 months to close and further 3 months to complete payment. Some companies will add Indian language compatibility only because of government compliance issue and hence opt for free methods such as Inscript and software developed by government organizations although they know that users will not find it easy to use.

The other challenge is the resistance in the Indian market to pay for software alone. Even Adobe, MS, and others have not been able to sell to consumers and are victims of rampant piracy.

How has the response been so far from users?

Response from users of local languages has been very good and we show up in the top 3 results in search for queries related to local language software. We have more than 1.5 lac users, and on Mozilla alone we have 55,000 downloads. Most popular languages include Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Punjabi.

Most people start with buying a single license and slowly end up buying more licenses for every PC. We have invested in providing good customer support on phone and email so even those who are not comfortable using computers can get started with Lipikaar.

Do you market your product aggressively? How do you market your product?

Currently most of our efforts are focused on online marketing channels but we are slowly trying offline methods as well.

Our online marketing channels include:

  • High-quality content and tutorials to allow us to reach users who need help with Indian languages
  • Email marketing
  • Google Adwords & online advertisements on language content portals.
  • Recently we formed partnerships with online resellers to provide easier shipping and buying options to our customers.
  • Website Widget/Plugin: Using this, website owners can add Lipikaar to their portal. This allows their users to discover and explore Lipikaar.

What are your future plans with Lipikaar?

Our main focus will be on increasing awareness about the product and exploring different avenues to market the product. We also plan to introduce Lipikaar on the mobile with applications for Android, iPhone etc.

You can try it live for free on http://www.lipikaar.com

 

- Swati Maheshwari