After China and Japan Swiftkey turns its sights on India, adds 15 local languages to boost localization


Swiftkey, the most popular keyboard app on Android, has added 15 Indian languages to its service, riding on the localization wave initiated by Google and Facebook. The company had introduced a Japanese beta in May and five Chinese languages with its Chinese beta earlier this week.

The Indian mobile space is heating up as the government, local carriers and international companies are all eyeing the 1.2 billion people who communicate in more than 28 languages. Google launched its worldwide Android One programme, to make cheaper smartphones available to a larger segment of users, with India as its pilot.

Indian Android users are the second-biggest group in the world today. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), there are 860 million mobile connections in India today, of which only 125 million Indians have listed English as their primary language of communication.

Also, there is an interesting skew towards rural mobile subscribers--out of the 45 million users using local language apps on the mobile, 64 percent are rural users and 25 percent are urban users. This great divide opens up an opportunity for nearly 600 million users that are limiting their mobile usage to only voice calls, as they simply cannot find enough apps in their local language.

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One of the major challenges in this whole battle has been creation of regional mobile-ready content for the audience that cannot, or prefers not to, consume content in English. Also communication apps need to take into account the regional language diversity if India has to acquire new users and tap the semi-urban and rural market in India.

In order to facilitate users to communicate and create content in their regional language, Swiftkey has updated its language support for India by adding 15 more Indian languages for users across the country. Swiftkey isn’t alone. Recently, messaging app Hike and calling app Viber have been introducing stickers with regional texts on them to cater to this new wave of audience.

Another interesting trend to notice in India is capability to be able to speak in more than one language that is fairly not seen in most parts of the world. To combat this trend in India, Swiftkey has also added a multilingual typing support feature that users type in more one language seamlessly across their network. This multilingual typing will certainly be a great feature to track given the various diversities in Indian sub-continent.

If Airtel’s One Touch Internet initiative is successfully executed along with other carriers also taking up such initiatives to get India online, it would expose a billion users to Internet who would be interacting in regional languages, a huge opportunity. Mark Zuckerberg was in India to kick off the summit in Delhi a couple of weeks back, he too is very keen in improving the infrastructure in India and get as many Indians online as possible.

The next step for Swiftkey would be to tie up with manufacturers to get preloaded on their phones. It already has a tie-up with Xiaomi (probably as part of its Chinese language initiative). With homegrown mobile phone makers grabbing market share in India, it’s probably a matter of time before the makers of SwiftKey announce a tie up with them.

Have you come across any great localization strategies by any app/smartphone maker that excited you? Share with us in comments below.


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