Despite the rise of AI, this Delhi startup is betting on human translators
Founded in 2021 by Sehaj Kohli, Kalakrit offers services such as translation, transcription, voice-over, dubbing, subtitles, and interpretation. So far it has worked on more than 350 projects across 150 languages.
Friday April 28, 2023,
6 min Read
Even as generative AI tools like ChatGPT have begun to impact the translation industry, one startup—Delhi-based—is keeping its "100% human-based solutions" front and centre of its translation and voice-over offerings.
“ChatGPT and other AI tools are great for translating general sentences or words. But when it comes to localising the content as per demographics, multiple regions, domains (marketing, legal, subject matter), length (books, passages, worksheets, websites, etc.), AI cannot translate this with the right context,” Sehaj Kohli, Founder and CEO, Kalakrit, tells YourStory.
Founded in 2021 by Kohli with an initial investment of Rs 20,000, Kalakrit is a multilingual communications provider that offers services like translation, transcription, voice-over, dubbing, subtitles, and interpretation.
According to the founder, it was a conscious effort to keep native linguists as the main drivers of its services.
“Since the very start, we came up with various methods and systems to ensure only the native linguists and artists work on our projects. Kalakrit does not use any sort of machines or AI technology for its translations or voice overs,” Kohli says.
According to Kohli, the industry is not flexible enough to accommodate customer requirements that deviate from the standard translation approach. It is this pain point that pushed him to start his own venture.
On one of his projects, for example, the client wanted the content to be translated into 12 Indian languages while keeping the written script in Roman. However, this wasn’t possible via the traditional translation methods. Kohli had to train a team of freelancers to translate and transcreate the content that was appealing to the client's target audience.
"This is what inspired me to build a company free from boundaries and flexible enough to mould it as per the needs of the client, something we call ‘modern translations’," says Kohli.
The Delhi-based B2B startup specialises in marketing localisation, BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance), and sworn translations (officially accepted translation of say, a legal document), as well as voiceovers in various Indian languages.
How does it work?
Kalakrit, which has so far worked on more than 350 projects across 150 languages, provides pre-delivery and post-delivery assistance to clients.
“For Indian languages, we have already created linguists teams catering to all domains and different translation styles,” says Kohli.
It specialises in 15 linguistic subject domains such as finance, legal, medical, technology, and many others. It says its solutions have 98-99% accuracy.
“Quality control is an issue that the whole industry has been facing, and anyone who is able to solve this will become the majority market shareholder. Language is subjective to culture, domains, and regions, which is why no quantitative measures can be implemented in order to control the quality and calculate the outputs,” he adds.
Localisation at its core
Localisation refers to the process of adapting content, products, or services to meet the cultural and linguistic preferences of a specific target audience in a particular region or country.
“It involves much more than just translation as it takes into account the local cultural norms, customs, and linguistic differences of the target audience,” Kohli says.
Kalakrit’s localisation services include translation of the text, audio, video, or multimedia content into the target language(s); adaptation of images, graphics, and other visual elements to suit the cultural preferences of the target audience; localised testing and quality assurance as well as cultural consulting and guidance.
“Localisation solution providers can help businesses to successfully enter new markets, expand their reach, and connect with audiences around the world in a way that resonates with them on a cultural and linguistic level,” Kohli adds.
Kalakrit’s charges are based on project-based fees, a one-time fee for a specific project, or fee-for-service, which is charged by the word.
It works with more than 50 brands, including Glance, Magicbricks, BYJU’S, MX Player, Apna, and Amazon, among others, and it claims that their results are 99% accurate.
Currently, the startup onboards 5-7 new brands per month and plans to add about 120 brands by the end of this year.
“A regular consumer will never be willing to spend for human-based translations as they have a faster and cheaper alternative available. But businesses, marketing agencies, PR agencies, production houses, and publications will always trust a native, domain-specific linguist to work on their content. They are our target market,” he says.
Kalakrit generated about Rs 11 lakh in revenue in FY21, Rs 34 lakh in FY22 and Rs 7.5 lakh in the last month. It is projected to generate Rs 1.5 crore revenue by the end of 2023.
Kalakrit’s team currently consists of 10–15 people. The startup has signed contracts with 7,000 linguists. “As of now we do not have any linguists working with us as permanent employees, we have freelancers working on contract who are on a two year term basis,” he says.
The startup competes with players such as Devnagri, Lingual Consultancy, Somya Translation Pvt. Limited., and Words Lead.
“The industry is changing drastically, with AI taking over most of the work. Upto 60% of the subtitle and transcription services are acquired by AI,” says Kohli. “The industry will grow even more with localisation becoming an integral part of marketing strategies. LSPs that are able to find the right direction will thrive and the rest will not be able to face the competition of AI.”
What lies ahead
According to a report by Common Sense Advisory, the global language services market size was valued at $53.45 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $70.32 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 6.02% during the forecast period.
The startup plans to take a loan to expand its team. It also aims to cross 200 languages and about 50 linguists in each language and 10 linguists in each domain.
While Kalakrit is staying away from AI translation tools, it plans to use project management AI solutions.
It is working on an AI-enabled resource management solution. The tool will be a mediator between the end user and the resource.
The tool will evaluate resources as per the requirement of the client and then assign tasks. The projects will still be fulfilled by the translators and VO artists but the assignment and other processes will be dealt via this AI tool.
“We have already bridged the gap between businesses and their consumers. Now the goal is to create a technology that brings together the speed of AI and the accuracy of human localisation solutions,” Kohli said.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti