We had written this article in April/May 2010 for the Pitch magazine. This article was published in July 2010 edition, got to read it only today. Reproducing the text version of that article here.
Indian Language portals can help brands connect with locals
India is a diverse country, languages are very much part of our culture. Only 10% of our population is comfortable with English. Finally the media has realized that it is time to focus on the majority, the whopping 90%.
The last couple of years, English newspapers have not been able to show significant growth, whereas language newspapers have been showing good growth.
The reason for English being the most popular language on the internet until now is because the penetration was in Tier-1 cities alone. Also search engines are not Indian language ready, i.e. it doesn’t throw up results from language sites that often, so very few of our Indian surfers are even aware of the existence of language portals.
Now internet penetration is seen in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. In these cities the local language is the medium of communication. With internet becoming a reality, both on PC & mobile, users in these towns will want content in their local language.
On the internet, India needs local classifieds, local events, local news, local shopping deals. And if these are in local languages they will be consumed a lot more by surfers. Collecting all these are no small task. Once you have a vibrant platform the number of repeat users would increase dramatically on local portals.
Advertisers are always interested in increasing the reach for their product. When a bank starts a new local branch the best way to attract customers would be to advertise on a portal for that locality.
Local users too have some needs that can be provided only by national level portals.
Ecommerce portals such as air ticketing, flowers, train ticketing, hotel booking portals would want to reach out to these local users. Few travel portals have already released the language version of their portal because they are seeing a huge potential in increasing their revenues.
In print, TV and radio (basically other than internet) we see advertisements in local languages. On South Indian TV channels you see Bollywood stars speaking the local language (by dubbing) simply because the message is better conveyed and better accepted in the local language. Similar phenomenon will work on the internet too. Language display banners on local content pages have shown 4 to 5 times higher click thru rates compared to English creatives, this is a huge bonanza for publishers and advertisers.
With local language portals gaining popularity, brands are able to reach out to the language speaking population. DTH has been gaining popularity in India, so is the competition. DTH companies want to reach out to language speaking prospective customers. If they want to reach out to Kannada speaking customers all they need to is to advertise on Kannada internet portals (with Kannada display banners). So what finally works is Kannada display banners on Kannada content to sell DTH services which have Kannada TV channels.
A focused campaign will yield far better results for brands and these local language portals provide the perfect platform to do so.
Localization is the order of the day on the internet. India has been a little slow in adopting localization but the process has started. In view of our diversity localization is a little more complex in India, it is not only about having local content/commerce but also in the local language.