Is regional language content the next frontier to reach India’s 1.2 billion people?Harshith Mallya
A report by IAMAI and KPMG projects that India will reach 236 million mobile Internet users by 2016, and 314 million by 2017. English language content accounts for 56 percent of the content on the Internet, while Indian languages account for less than 0.1percent. But, a vast majority of India’s population prefers consuming content in their native languages over English.
According to estimates, currently, about 100-120 million, accounting a 10 percent of India’s population, is comfortable consuming content in English. While some may consider this a barrier for Internet penetration in India, it actually opens doors for new market opportunities. News aggregators such as InShorts, Way2News, Hike (News), and DailyHunt are focussing on the native Indian language sector to cater to the ‘next billion’ Indian Internet users.
An app under the parent company Way2Online, Way2News offers short form news content in nine Indian languages, including Hindi, Telegu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, and Bengali. Raju Vanapala, a first-generation entrepreneur founded Way2Online in 2006. He hails from a small town - Vijaywada - and belongs to a farmer family.
Way2News has a team of writers that summarise news articles from various sources into 400-character summaries. Their strength lies in their ability to tap into Tier 2, Tier 3 cities and towns through cross advertising and marketing with their sister brand, Way2SMS, which has a user base of over 50 lakh users.
Backed by Tiger Global, Inshorts is a news aggregator that offers news stories summarised in 60 words. The startup was founded by Azhar Iqubal, Anunay Arunav, and Deepit Purkayastha in 2013 as News in Shorts, before they re-branded to InShorts. They recently entered the vernacular market with a Hindi interface of their app. By mid 2016, they plan to expand to other regional languages such as Marathi, Kannada, and Tamil.
Azhar, CEO and Co-founder, Inshorts, said, “Currently, our app gets most of its users from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, and Chennai. With the Hindi launch we hope to tap Tier 2 cities such as Jaipur, Kanpur, Lucknow, Bhopal, Nagpur, Chandigarh, and Ludhiana etc., and aim to increase our reach by additional five million users by April 2016.”
Hike messenger was founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal and was globally launched in 2012. After reaching 35 million downloads, the company had raised $ 65million in funding to fuel its growth. In August this year, Hike launched the 4.0 version of its app and in addition to messaging, currently offers coupons, short form news, a chatbot (Natasha) and a facility to chat without Internet (Hike Direct).
Hike News is currently available in English and Hindi. The company claims that the version 4.0 is 5x faster than its predecessor and is designed for the ‘next billion’ Indian consumers from smaller towns who are experiencing Internet for the first time. They have optimised the app to work on low-end phones and poor network conditions.
Earlier this year, DailyHunt (then NewsHunt) had raised Rs 250 crore in series C funding led by New York-based hedge fund Falcon Edge Capital. DailyHunt provides aggregated news across a variety of topics such as politics, business, technology, and Bollywood etc. In February 2015, DailyHunt was
aggregating content from 100 news sources and aggregating 25,000+ articles every day. The app is available for users in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, UAE, Africa, and India and supports 15 languages.
Currently, native Hindi news apps Dainik Jagran and NDTV India-Hindi news are among the leading news apps for Hindi users, but it will be interesting to see how the new entrants in this space attract and retain users. Aspada and Qualcomm Ventures.-backed Reverie technologies is a big player in this space and offers a Language as a Service (LaaS) platform to help startups and enterprises go multilingual and cater to a larger audience. It will be interesting to see how the scenario changes in the next few years as local languages are given the importance they deserve.