Latest India Online survey shows languages are the way to go

The latest results from JuxtConsult India Online 2008 are interesting [PR: English, KannadaMalayalam, Tamil, Telugu],

  • ‘All internet users’ (occasional+regular users) at 49 million – 40 million urban, 9 million rural. A very encouraging number from the rural sector.
  • 33% growth in all urban users over 2007.
  • 35 million ‘regular’ users – 30 million urban, 5 million rural (i.e. they login in atleast once a month)
  • 25 million ‘daily’ users.
    This is a very encouraging number.
  • 77% of all online users belong to the 19 to 35 age group category
  • 70% of the total users belong to the SEC A, B and C towns
  • 36% of the users share video online.
  • Home is the ‘most preferred place of access’ for 41% users.
    This would indicate the penetration of DSL and cable internet is on the rise.
  • English is the most preferred language of reading for only 28% of Internet users (indicates the potential for vernacular language content)
  • Users of ‘vernacular language’ websites up at 34% from last year’s 12% (though 28% prefer English as the language of reading only 34% are visiting vernacular websites regularly, indicating the lack of content online)
    I disagree with the comment ‘indicating the lack of content online’. Will elaborate on this later in this post.

There is always a debate going on about Indian languages on the net. Few say it is the way to go, few say it is not the way to go. I have been in the language space since 2000, I have never seen a decline in the traffic. It has only increased for We have always carried the content what people want to consume, I think that is one of the main reasons for the increase in the readership of our language channels.

I was analyzing the traffic of our Hindi channel, it was heartening to see people are searching in “Hindi”,

Hindi search keywords on Google

Lack of Indian Language Content Online

Most surveys conclude that readers are not happy with the language content out there. There are few portals that focus just on language but most language newspapers are online today. Also, let us not forget the language blogs, the numbers are increasing impressively. Language blogs in India are a good example of the arrival of User Generated Content [UGC] in India.

But then these newspapers don’t do that great a job in the online space. Most of them haven’t even moved to Unicode. Anyways, I believe there is sufficient amount of content being published by language portals and newspapers to keep the user engaged today. Is there any scope of improvement? Sure, there is always a scope of improvement in what we do. Nobody has attained Nirvana yet 😉

Business Dailies like Business Standard, Economic Times have gone the vernacular way – online and/or print. When it comes to covering politics, vernacular dailies and portals have carried more detailed and spicy stuff when compared to English print. Many relish reading such articles in their own language. I think these are the people who are participating in the surveys and asking for ‘more’ language content on the net.

Infact, has done everything to popularize language in the mobile and internet space.

  • We were the first to release a WAP portal which had language content in Unicode.
  • We were the first to release SMS alerts (we still have the mobile+font hurdle, it will be solved over the coming years by the mobile vendors).
  • We were the first to release ball by ball cricket coverage in 5 languages
  • We were the first to introduce languages in online classifieds.

Lack of Funding in Language Space

Recently Rajesh Sawhney, President of Reliance Entertainment mentioned that content is lagging behind in funding in India. He did emphasise the need to leapfrog to 4G, and that like in the case of TV, Hindi and regional languages are key to the spread of the Internet.

I can’t agree more. Tier-II is where everyone, especially FMCG [wiki], is expecting to see growth. The buying power of Tier-II residents is a lot more than what we urban geeks think. It may not be the norm, but I have observed people from Tier-II like to read in local language even after they move to Tier-I cities.

Search Engines And Indian Languages

The other reason why surfers are not aware of the existence of the language portals is the way Search engines work. I believe they are yet to figure out how to handle language queries when entered in English. A mere 12-15% of our traffic is from search engine majors Google and Yahoo. Not enough.

Try searching for ‘movie reviews in tamil‘ – you get to see sites that carry reviews of Tamil movies in English (which would have been partly acceptable if I had searched for ‘tamil movie reviews‘). Instead, I would want language portals on the top of the page. Every content portal depends on Google and Yahoo for traffic (new and repeat) – nobody can deny that fact. So for language portals to do well, Google and Yahoo need to digest language content a lot better. However I would like to thank the search engines for whatever traffic they send us.

I guess they are fine tuning the algorithm but then I am not sure how important is India for them 🙁 Ideally India should be important for both the search engines as India is where they will find the exponential growth.


  1. Hi Mahesh,

    Thanks a lot for quoting JuxtConsult ( in this interesting post.

    I agree with you on your view on what we termed as the “lack of vernacular content” issue that you have explained very nicely. We should have written in that press release “lack of relevant vernacular & local content” and “lack of possibility to search and find vernacular & local content”.

    But as you rightly highlighted players like “oneindia” and other are gearing up and trying to make the future better.

    Co-founder, JuxtConsult

  2. Great post. Local language is the way to go as you suggested and the trend has only gone upwards like you point out.

    From reading your long post it looks like there is a growing awareness that local language content is key moving forward…so what is required now is content and money. And in the meantime sites like yours do a fanastic job of filling the gap.

    Best of luck,


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