Move over English-vinglish as vernacular content is set to rule the digital ecosystem

India's 1.3 billion people include a tiny 125 million English speakers, the rest are fluent in their local languages. Now, companies are realising that the numbers are telling them a market truth that they'd be wise to adapt to.

The internet and the digital economy has finally understood that the world is full of different types of people speaking different languages. And in this ecosystem, vernacular and localised content is not only inevitable, but will increase its relevance as the years go by.

With the universality of the internet and the digitisation boom prevalent in Tier II and Tier III cities and towns, entrepreneurs and businesses have realised that in order to become successful and reach every nook and corner to potential customers, going regional and localised is the only way to bring in genuine engagement and impact.

As per reports, people can now access the YouTube India home page in more than ten languages. In fact, smaller cities are heavily responsible for 60 percent of YouTube watch-time which is a clear transformation in terms of viewership. Hindi is undoubtedly the largest segment among Indian regional languages. Also, Telugu had the highest viewership and uploads between 2016 and 2019 among regional languages (outside Hindi). About 16 million Telugu video subscribers in 2016 soared to 166 million in 2018.

Content marketing companies have been realising the significance of vernacular content availability and its reach, which is well-reflected in the need to employ experienced localised authors to create impact-worthy articles written in local Indian dialects that connect with people and their diverse cultures and roots.

For example, Chinese owned companies like Opera and UC Browser has been successfully operating in India since a long time now. Initially, the firms' main focus was on the English dialect for all sorts of advertisements and communication. But with changing time, trends, and demands, these firms have started focusing on different Indian regional languages as well in order to target the majority of masses existing in India. Some of the key languages that these brands are focusing on include English, Hindi, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam and so on. In order to meet the demand, such firms are employing experienced localized authors for increasing the traffic as a firm.

It goes without saying that most folk love conversation and communication in their native language over any other, including English, the world over. India with its burgeoning population of around 1.3 billion people has a meager 125 million English speakers (Source: BBC). Thus, the recent increased emphasis on localised content and vernacular platforms seeing an upward graph.

From food delivery to taxi services, the past decade witnessed online companies solving problems of the urban population of India. Statistically, the problems were solved for English speakers, which essentially meant that the companies could tap only 10 to 15 percent of the Indian populace.

While countries like China and the US have just one or two official languages, India has 22 official languages with 6,000-plus dialects. With schemes like ‘Digital India' and the smartphone revolution, people have access to the internet but not to content. Hence, this large, net-savvy untapped market makes India the most sought-after amongst new-age businesses from across the world.

Tech Mahindra and Opera are a few great examples that explain why targeting the entire masses individually is essential in order to get a fruitful result. Recently, Tech Mahindra has been focusing on generating content in Hindi to reach out to millions of people that are usually untargeted. Similarly, Opera, realising the fact that its necessary to target the remaining audiences for enhancing its traffic has started generating content in different languages that can be easily fetched by people living in different parts of the country. Such initiatives offer an opportunity for firms to inform audiences about their products and services by communicating in the languages that they usually prefer and understand.

Today Google's translate and a slew of other software and applications make sense of English. Yet, many are faced within correct translations and broken sentences. A gaping hole, many businesses have decided to fill, with an added focus on R&D to bring more vernacular languages to the customer.

The increased availability of regional language focussed platforms and options show the demand for regional content. Gone are those days when the English language was considered to be enough for attracting audiences through online platforms. In the past recent times, the demand for regional languages like Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, and others have increased drastically which has forced the entrepreneurs to work on the same. As a result, many companies are now working with different languages along with English in order to meet the requirement. Hindi as a language is gaining great response and popularity in terms of audiences and viewership.

In the future, this nascent sector is set to explode with a greater demand for regional language professionals be it digital marketers or content writers and specialists. This is already evident in the incidence of job postings for regional language content specialists by established and new-age brands setting footprints into India.

According to a report, more than 30 percent companies in India are now looking out for employees that are good in English along with 1-2 regional languages. It's a new trend where an employee has a good grasp of different languages at the same time is believed to be more effective and productive to attract the audience. If you scroll through different job opportunities on LinkedIn and other platforms, you might see the requirement for a writer who is good in English and some other regional language as well.

While some vernacular content was available in the news and entertainment genre, traditionally, with the advent of new-age platforms like news and entertainment-driven apps and social media, the need for regional content to connect with the end-user is seeing a sporadic rise. Platforms catering to localised content are showing better performance.

In fact, recently, Franchise India which is nationally famous for its contribution in the franchise sector has started posting news and articles in the Hindi language as well believing the fact that India has many great entrepreneurs that might understand and related to its vision clearly through this language. The firm believes that it can help them gain more audience that might be interested in their services.

Going by the reports, about 60 percent of the viewership is coming from outside six large cities and of that 95 percent is in Indian languages. Added to that, Malayalam language content is growing 100 percent year-on-year in watch time. `With over 265 million users coming to YouTube in India every month, diversity of Indian content on YouTube has never been this good before.

The fact that Indian language users have overtaken English language users on the Internet in India is proof.

The steady rise of apps like ShareChat etc,which offers people a platform to connect in a localised language or provides an ease of filing stories online by a journalist in a regional language or airing a live interview in real-time without worrying about it being dubbed in English is a clear signal that in the years to come, with more of digitisation and technology; personalised and customised offerings in the localised language will be the norm.

The growing online user base in India, especially in the semi-urban and rural segment is set to see an increased demand (and consumption) of vernacular content while also an increase in digital advertising spend in the regional media that is set to grow from a mere $300 million in 2018 to $3 billion by 2023, as per the report Vernacular is Now by RedSeer Consulting.

Market leaders like Facebook, Google, etc who hold 80 percent of the India digital advertising spend, are already supporting languages like in Tamil, Hindi, Marathi and Bengali and are very focussed on localisation, "the writing is clearly on the wall!" And it's vernacular.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

(Edited by Suruchi Kapur- Gomes)


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