[RAISE 2020] How two childhood friends are making knowledge accessible through a one-stop video localisation startup

Leveraging machine-learning for background noise cancellation and crowdsourcing voice translations, VideoWiki brings down video translation costs by 99 percent, enabling non-profits to build multilingual videos easier, cheaper, and faster.
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India is a country with a population of over 1.3 billion, 90 percent of whom do not speak in English. Not surprisingly, there are 22 major languages spoken in India, and nine out of 10 people joining the internet are local language speakers. However, the educational content available on the internet that can be consumed by the masses of India (ie, local language videos) is very low. 

During a conversation with Venky, a security guard at his apartment building, Pratik Shetty, Co-founder and CEO of VideoWIki, noticed the presence of mosquitoes in the standing water near the building and warned that they could cause tropical illnesses such as dengue fever, which can at times be life-threatening. But Pratik was taken aback with Venky’s response, who reassured him saying that he can treat dengue by himself and without visiting a doctor. He showed Pratik a random Hindi YouTube video that listed five at-home remedies. While Pratik advised him not to seek medical advice from such YouTube videos as they aren’t reliable, and rather read information from Wikipedia which is at least supported by third-party medical sources, Venky answered saying, “Unfortunately, I cannot read Wikipedia”

That’s when Pratik realised how lack of accessible and credible knowledge can adversely impact the decisions of people who are less fortunate. Pratik then shared his thoughts with his childhood friend Hassan Amin who had pursued Masters in Machine Learning in Egypt. With a combination of tech and business skills, Pratik and Hassan started working on VideoWiki in January 2018 to develop a tool that would help Wikipedia to add videos to their article.

It provided web-based software for the collaborative creation, editing, and distribution of multimedia content on Wikipedia. Most of these videos were on health topics that included dengue fever, hypertension, cancer, pneumonia, and many more. 

Pratik tells YourStory, “We both wanted to use our skills to help the society rather than focus on making money. While I had the insight into multilingual videos, Hassan had the technical skills to pull it off. So we got together in building VideoWiki. However, from day one, we knew that we wanted to structure our organisation as a tech non-profit rather than build just another startup.”

VideoWiki Founders(L:R) Pratik Shetty, Hassan Amin 

Later in February 2019, the organisation pivoted to help other non-profits by building VideoWiki – one-stop video localisation platform that allows organisations to translate text or add voice-over in the local language to their videos. 

Prior to starting VideoWiki, Pratik was the founder of another non-profit called Keep India Clean, an NGO that won the Swachh Bharat Award and provided a platform for individuals and restaurants to clean India in innovative ways. 

“Entrepreneurship comes very naturally to me; I love building new products. Keep India Clean gave me a good peek into entrepreneurship and what it takes to survive”, says Pratik.

With five full-time employees and 50 translators and voice-over artists, the team had been working remotely since the start, with the founders and team spread across the globe. Hence, it did not take the organisation much effort to adapt to working during COVID-19.

Leveraging machine-learning background noise cancellation and remote voice translations, VideoWiki has brought down video translation costs by 10x, enabling organisations to build multilingual videos easier, cheaper, and faster. Earlier, it used to cost Rs 2,000 per minute which VideoWiki brought down to Rs 200/minute using its tools.

What VideoWiki solves

To make knowledge accessible to the next billion, VideoWiki helps non-profit organisations and governments to localise their video contents in 10 Indian languages. Its vision is to build the world’s largest dataset on “parallel Indian languages translations”.

VideoWiki is a browser-based tool and doesn’t require video/audio editing skills. It allows people who are unfamiliar with video editing software to easily add voiceovers to videos and doesn’t require professional mics/studio setup.

By using machine learning background noise cancellation and crowdsourcing voice translations, VideoWiki allows amateurs translators to add voice-overs remotely from their homes.

It operates on two models 

  • Self-service model, which organisations can use for free by translating content using their own volunteers. 
  • Outsourcing model, where organisations can outsource their translating work to VideoWiki, and the startup charges the non-profits at a cost basis. 
“Being a tech non-profit, VideoWiki runs on philanthropic capital and increasing impact continues to remain our larger motive. Also, being philanthropically funded, we currently charge only costs to our non-profit clients,” said Hassan Amin, Co-founder and CTO.  

Image Credits: VideoWiki

Translating for everyone

The concepts of “flipped classrooms” and blended learning are gaining traction in K-12 and university classrooms worldwide. These teaching techniques replace primary in-person instruction with video tutorials, reserving class time for more in-depth interaction. 

VideoWiki allows education non-profits to increase access to their top-quality educational videos to local languages audiences, and make knowledge inclusive, irrespective of the learner’s language. 

The technology has been adopted by diverse entities – from Y Combinator-backed tech non-profits to the Government of India

Shahed Alam, President and Co-founder, Noora Health, a Y Combinator-backed non-profit says, “Translating our medical content to multiple languages with high fidelity while maintaining simple diction is an incredibly tedious process. VideoWiki has made one of the toughest elements of scaling our work simple and effective.”

Pratik says, “We are a B2B tech non-profit company wherein our go-to-market strategy is reaching out to non-profits and government organisations that are looking to localise their content in India, either directly or servicing the inbound requests.”

“Currently, piloting with the DIKSHA, Government of India to help localize their video content has been our biggest success,” added Pratik. 

The competitors

Translation services in India is a fragmented market with many small players like Mars Translation, Lisan India, Feenix Language solution, and many more.

At present, there are two ways to translate a video. Firstly, by outsourcing to a translation/dubbing agency, the average cost for translating a one-minute video would be $10. This method is not scalable for most non-profits as it is a cost-prohibitive and time-consuming exercise. The second way is volunteer-driven translations, which is largely restricted to translating subtitles (text) only. This is because voice translations require professional software, technical skill, professional equipment, and studios for recording voice-overs, thus making it expensive for the organisation.

VideoWiki allows non-profit organisations to translate at such a scale for free of cost. VideoWiki’s technology stack enables scaling internationally from day one, while its “mobilizing volunteers’ unit” can scale nationally as the volunteer work is digital, remote, and requires no on-field work.

Hassan claims, “There is no organisation (for-profit or non-profit) that can translate one million videos in 20+ languages in a year. Our remote model allows for us to scale our organization as compared to other competitors (translation studios) who are centralized in nature (i.e. their voice over artists have to go to a studio to do the voice over).”

Funding and growth plans

The startup has raised Rs 70 lakh so far across multiple foundations and philanthropists. Some of the prominent donors include Wikimedia Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, and Ekstep Foundation.

Non-profits have long struggled to make multilingual videos and digital content due to high costs and limited professional resources.

“Looking at the overwhelming demand of localised video content (especially in COVID-19) in the non-profit sector, we are currently looking to use philanthropic capital to subsidise the cost of localisation,” says Pratik.

Sharing their future plans, Pratik says, “After videos, we are now building an image localisation tool (currently in the beta stage) that allows organisations to quickly localise normal (non-svg) images into multiple Indian languages.”

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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