As I sat in the auto-rickshaw in Chennai today morning and initiated a colloquy with the driver, he glanced at me and said “Tamil Only Madam”!
India – a homeland to many Languages (22 major languages, 13 different scripts, and over 19,500 dialects) However, Digital India – A land of predominantly ONE language (that too not ours)!
An initiative towards Vernacular India: How reasonable is that?
90% of India does not speak English. Millions of new consumers will be using the internet for the first time, on their phones (A big thanks to Reliance Jio), and none of them will be English speaking. Does e-commerce then expect people to learn English and then shop? Do people beyond the metros not excite business-houses as customer base or are they assumed to be ‘low-income group’
Salespeople in the real world have certainly mastered the art of observing customers and speaking in the language they infer. As a matter of fact, it is sometimes amusing to see them interact with foreigners in broken English. When will then, e-commerce sites and apps learn to understand their customer’s language and assist them in that language?
In one of the research conducted by Techved Consulting in rural parts of Uttar Pradesh, a respondent tried looking for shoes on an e-commerce site by typing ‘Shuj’ (That’s how they phonate it). After repeatedly getting NO results, he concluded – ‘Ab to lagta hai angrezi seekhni padegi, yeh istemaal karne ke liye’!
India with its largest mobile infiltration in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities is dynamically altering the digital narration. It is then astonishing that no telecom company has endowed on the path of making its digital assets (websites, app, etc) in vernacular languages.
Even digital campaigns, are made in English and then translated in Local languages. Has anyone thought of Vernacular first!
With UDAAN (Udega Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme underway, where is Digital India for Aam Nagrik?
All is not as glum though, we have a few startups who have entrepreneurs in vernacular content and have accomplished progress – Daily Hunt, Roposo, Better Butter, Samosa Labs to name a few.
Vernacular Digital India does not only mean translating content, but it also means observing attentively and getting a meticulous understanding of a consumer who reacts and expects very differently from English speaking Downtown consumer.
India thus needs to constitute an ecosystem for ‘Vernacular Internet’ for its next billion users. Likes of Whatsapp, Google and Facebook have already taken that plunge with their inclusion of Indian languages.
Let’s wake up to the need for semi – Urban and Rural India to truly fulfil the dream of ‘Digital India’ or rather Digital Bharat!
Let’s give Equivalent opportunities to all, with no language impediments!
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