Fifty-two-year-old Savitri was amazed at the speed at which her daughter regularly booked train/flight tickets for her and availed cashback offers, all at the click of a few buttons. A social worker by profession, Savitri, frequently travels to different cities to conduct educational workshops. In the earlier days it was a travel agent who managed all her travel itineraries across the country; she withdrew the service after she was introduced to the world of apps. Savitri’s travel life became easier and highly affordable since then. With the help of her daughter, she downloaded a few useful apps on her smartphone, and, is now able to buy groceries, experiment with new cuisines, plan her travel accordingly and watch her favourite showsseamlessly. Savitri was eager to teach her maid and those living in rural areas how to make smart use of their mobile phones with the help of applications that could save their time and money. While some were able to learn quickly, a lot of them faced difficulty as they were unable to comprehend the English language. Savitri also found it tricky to translate every word shown on the app in Hindi or in their mother tongue and teach them the process. That is when she started looking for applications that operate in regional languages as well.She wanted to make it easier for people to access all the content in their choice of language and enable them to make use of the highly convenient app services.

Indian consumers are heavily inclined towards vernacular and regional language content. The launch of the Indic keyboard on most of the mobile phones witnessed an increase in smartphone penetration in India. With the help of Indic keyboards, people living in remote areas and those fluent in their native languages were able to type messages and save contacts or even browse in their choice of language. While apps have drastically changed the way we lead our daily lives, there are a lot of people living in smaller towns and cities who face language barriers and are unable to reap the maximum benefits because they face difficulty in comprehending a term and making use of a service in a different language.

At times, even after being aware of the app services, users fear that without understanding the language, they may click a wrong button, lose money or misuse the app. This is where regional language versions of apps come to the rescue. They ease the process and help in seamless transactions via hand-held devices. Indians, to a great extent prefer conversing in their native languages than in English. Following this insight, several companies have embraced the localization strategy and have come up with multilingual apps. They have ensured that all the features that are present on the English language app exist on the regional language ones as well. Top companies have also made sure that the interface for most of the language apps are an exact replica of the English version. By introducing apps in several native Indian languages other than English, businesses are trying their best to cater to the ‘next billion’ Indian smartphone users.

India has undergone an unparalleled digital transformation. At present, home to more than 462 million internet users and 300 million smartphone owners, the country has the second-largest internet base and is the second-largest smartphone market after the US. This rampant increase witnessed in smartphone sales in the country is due to the growing internet penetration in both rural and urban areas, access to faster data speed and improved smartphone applications. Mobile phones that were once used for voice calling and text messages are now being utilized to buy medicines, book movie tickets and to get healthy, home-cooked food. Mobile applications are offering a plethora of services that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Imagine travelling solo to an offbeat destination for the first time, unaware about the local language and people around. How about making use of a travel app as a guide in your preferred language to gather information about the attractions, eating places and other travelling tips on the go!

Smartphone apps are slowly becoming a way of life for Indians. Millennials, especially, are dependent on mobile apps for shopping, dating, learning, editing and so much more at their fingertips! This shows that there is a tremendous opportunity for companies to explore, as there are hundreds of thousands of potential users who are starving to access vernacular content. The base of regional language users is expected to grow multi-fold and they are perceived to dominate the future growth of the internet user base in India, as a majority of Indians are still comfortable with their native languages.

The writer is CTO & co-founder, ixigo


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