Tag Archives: Mobile

Why Mobile First is not the Right Strategy!

Startup events and Investor talks today have this catch phrase – ‘Mobile First’. Its actually started two years back when Fred Wilson wrote a post that says “Mobile First Web Second.

I recently tweeted, “Can write a post why ‘Mobile First’ is not a right strategy!”. The response to that made me write this post.

Why I said that?
There are some brilliant mobile apps created by startups in recent years, the biggest challenge for all of them is discovery. Few startups are working in this problem too – helping users to discover your mobile apps. The problem is – these startups themselves are struggling in getting users to discover them first.

Google’s Android has over 700,000 apps in Play Store. Apple’s iOS App Store has over 700,000 apps. Assuming these were unique, as a entrepreneur, your startup has to fight with over 699,999 competitors on user’s smartphone, who on an average has only 65 apps installed. Another trend, many users regularly uninstall apps they do not use; once uninstalled – it is very unlikely they will install it again!

Building a successful startup requires two skills – building a product and marketing it. I tweeted that few days back – “Building a product is one thing. Marketing it is another. Remember that!”

Building the Product
Product development in startup is not easy. Everyday there are at least 3-5 updates to the live web application. Even before users realize, they are using on the latest version of web app.

On mobile this is tricky, its impossible to send 3-5 daily releases for your mobile app everyday. Its even more trickier to get your users to download and upgrade the latest version of mobile app every time.

Marketing the Product
Turn around and look at web – what are the ways you can get your start up discovered – Natural Search, Paid Search, Display Marketing (Advt based or Behavior based targeting), Social, Email Marketing and so on. Most of these is very flexible, you can do it all.

On mobile, there is only one mode of discovery that works – Mobile Advertising. Its still not a easy mode of advertising; far expensive; spray and pray approach as its not intent driven (remember – no one is asking for your app!) like Google Adwords and extremely less efficient since its end result is not landing page with one-click sign-up, but its downloading the app, registering the user and retaining him as well.

Btw, I am a believer in products that are driven by value to customers; and not through marketing.

So how does one get Mobile Strategy right?
Glance through the smartphone and check the apps you are most actively using. Its Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Evernote, Quora and so on. These are essentially web first, mobile later products.

Effective Mobile Strategy is simple – get your product right on the web, acquire initial users, iterate your product (fast), get it right quickly, ensure engagement is in place. Once you have users engaged on the web, they will see value in your product to download your app and stay connected.

Hint – Look at Quora. It was valuable to its initial set of users who were so engaged with the product that they were screaming for getting a mobile app. Quora launched iOS app in Sept 2011; Android App a full year later in Sept 2012.

As a product manager, know that driving adoption and driving engagement for a product are two different things. Don’t try to drive adoption of your product through mobile, its extremely challenging and next to impossible. Instead use mobile as a extension of your product to drive engagement.

Then what about WhatsApp, Instagram, FourSquare, Pulse, Angry Birds and others?
I don’t think anyone has defined this yet, so let me say what are truly mobile first verticals –

  • Communication – If core of your product is deep integration with phone address book. (Eg, WhatsApp)
  • Location – If core of your product starts with location awareness. (Eg. FourSquare)
  • Camera – If core of your product starts with ‘taking’ photos. (Eg. Instagram)
  • Free Time – If core of your product is being valuable to user on the move or leisure time. (Eg. Games, News aggregation services like Pulse). Again extremely difficult category – you compete with Facebook, Twitter and 1000s of apps in this segment.

Yes. These products are not exceptions – they are truly mobile first products.

Wait, will VCs invest in my startup if I dump Mobile First approach?
Next time anyone suggests you or advises you to go Mobile First, just ask them tips to hack app discovery and drive adoption.

The games of investing are simple. VCs will invest only if –

  1. A proven team or experience entrepreneurs (at least 1X entrepreneurs)
  2. If consumer startup – then traction; if enterprise startup – then revenue.

I don’t think any VC will invest in your startup just because you are Mobile first. Take any strategy – web first or mobile first; as long as you get the above two things right for your product – VCs will chase you!

Concluding Notes:
While I was drafting this post, two interesting posts related to this topic came up.

Fred Wilson wrote following in his post “What has changed“, – “Distribution is much harder on mobile than web and we see a lot of mobile first startups getting stuck in the transition from successful product to large user base. strong product market fit is no longer enough to get to a large user base. you need to master the “download app, use app, keep using app, put it on your home screen” flow and that is a hard one to master.”

Cristina Cordova put up some interesting stats about User Retention in her post – “The Biggest Problem in Mobile: Retention.

Restating it again as concluding remarks: “Mobile Strategy is simple. Get your product right on the web, acquire initial users, iterate your product, get it right, ensure engagement is in place. Once you have users engaged on the web, they will see value in your product to download your app to stay connected.”

Update: I received few notes from startup founders to also include a important note in this article which I missed – ‘Even when you build a web application, design your product as a responsive web design’. I completely agree.

Google in its mid-life crisis!

Few days back, read an article about Larry Page, Founder and now-CEO of Google attempting to pull Google out of its mid-life crisis. The article headline was catchy, but no justification of what exactly is this mid-life crisis about.

Below are my views on what I believe are the 10 biggest challenges Google is facing right now and why it might be a tough-time forward for the Internet giant. Flip through the presentation below or read the long post below.


1. Search

Yes – Search. Google’s core product is facing threat from another format of search: Real-Time Search.

Google continues to add more capabilities to index real-time information to its search algorithms; but fails to realize that traditional web-index based search is different from real-time search. Last year (April 2010), in its caffeine update Google claimed to provide 50% more fresher results. Nov 2011 it rolled out another set of changes to its search algorithms that affects 35% of all search queries. Again same month, it was discovered that Google started indexing comments on Facebook.

In real-time search, the context in which the information retrieved is no longer valid after sometime. In case of Twitter it does not last beyond a day. Or a week? Same with Facebook. At this same point while consumer search for this information on Google – it is impossible to figure out the context of that search query – real-time info or traditional.

Example. Apple launches its next smartphone – iPhone 5. Consumers looking for “smartphone” on Google Search are shown iPhone 5 results, even when they are not looking for it.

Methods of information indexing, querying, trending, and even consumer mindset for real-time search are different than traditional search. Google may end up killing product experience of Traditional web search with such attempts.

Content index based web search & real-time information search are different products. If Google intends to capture a mind-share of Real-Time web search; it needs to build a different product.


2. The Rise of Discovery Platforms

For years, Search was our only means to discover websites, content, products, services. Google was our gateway to the Internet.

Today, with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and similar; consumers are discovering more and relevant websites, content, products or services. They come to us with recommendations, shares, comments from our contacts – and are more relevant. Interpret this as – Google is no longer the only discovery mechanism.

User adoption for Social Networks is increasing; they continue to have high mindshare and also consumers are spending more time on social platforms today. In addition to this, a whole new wave of innovative products are launched on top of Social Graphs enabling contextual discovery.

Social discovery methods are threat to Search.


3. Social

After 750+ Mn users on Facebook, 380+ Mn on Twitter, 115+ Mn on LinkedIn; Google now does understand the importance of having a Social Product.

Its earlier attempts – Orkut, Buzz, Wave failed. It is making a big push with Google+, trying to create a new Social Graph, without realizing that they are already established.

Social Graphs are reflection of our Social Relationships in real world. And they are:

  • Close Relationships: Facebook
    Family, Friends – People you know personally!
  • Professional Relationships: LinkedIn
    Colleagues, Partners, Business Relationships
  • Loose Relationships – Twitter
    Celebrities, Domain Experts. People you know, but they may not know you.

There is no room for creation of another graph. And for Google+, I strongly believe that it will fail again as it is still miles away from being a great social product.

On other hand – Spotify, Netflix, Hulu and many other products and startups are riding the Facebook Open Graph / Social Graph to increase social engagement and usage. While Google is missing the opportunity by not leveraging Facebook’s reach for its own products like YouTube, Google News and similar.

Social is not in Google’s DNA.


4. Continued Fascination with Google+

The rule to build successful products is – “Build quickly, learn, build, deploy. Doesn’t work, discard. Start again.” Google taught us this rule; and is now breaking it again and again.

Google should rather focus on building Google+, showing users the value proposition in this platform. Instead it is doing its biggest mistake – forcefully including Google+ in its other products. And in this process killing the user experience and usability of its successful products.

  • Search:  Introduced Google+ profiles of users who shared respective URL in search results.
  • Adwords:  Introduced the +1 button to Adwords display advts.
  • YouTube: Introduced videos shared by Google+ users on YouTube homepage.
  • Gmail: Introduced notifications on Google+ updates on Gmail header toolbar.
  • Google Reader: Introduced sharing options, adding users to Circles from Google Reader.

In any of the above products, Google+ additions are not enabling any core-feature of the main product. These would have been great things to do if Google+ had proved its own value to users. Google is simply leveraging successful products to promote Google+.

Didn’t Yahoo try his before – everything Yahoo. I didn’t work earlier, it will not work now.


5. Fixing whats not broken

Google wants to act fast and speed up its innovation. While doing this, it is actually fixing whats not broken.

Gmail –

  • The new design update Google is planning to push to all its users – is uncalled for. The functional updates are great thing to do, but the changes to its look are at the expense of product usability and could have been avoided.
  • Google announced launch of a very buggy version of its Gmail client for iOS; and recalled the same from app stores within hours.
  • Stops support for native Blackberry App. While Blackberry itself is on a decline, it still has a significant 19.7% share in US smartphone market and continues to grow in countries like India.

Search –

  • Started with its Caffeine roll-out in June 2010 to include fresh content.
  • In Nov 2011 – it pushed another big roll-out that impacts 35% of search queries.
  • Labnol discovered that Google is now indexing Facebook comments.

In search of freshness, Google is playing too much with its core search product. As mentioned earlier in this post, Real-Time search needs to be a different product.

Google Maps –

  • Announced pricing for Maps API High-volume usage.
  • Location is a key to future product innovation on top of Maps. This move is likely to affect a lot of startups innovating on top of Google Maps.

YouTube –

  • Homepage displays videos from People you follow on Google+

Google is also implementing design standardizations across all products – Search, Gmail, Reader, News, Books and more others. Google is killing uniqueness of its products by standardizing its look and feel and continuing with its fascination of Google+.


6. Siri

It may not be easy for anyone to dismiss Siri as a feature on iPhone 4S. Siri is not just voice recognition; it is another input methodology. Siri’s natural language interaction is far more superior than the syntax driven VA (Voice Actions for Android). VA is anywhere between 1-2 years behind Siri. That is a (HUGE) advantage Apple holds.

As the technology improves, one can start talking to Siri as –

  • “Siri, search for ‘MP3 Player’, take me to the best result!”
  • “Siri, show me the map of Mumbai.”
  • “Siri, who is offering the lowest flight ticket from Mumbai to London.”

There are infinite possibilities what Siri can develop into quickly. Most importantly – the potential it holds can make many Google products and services around it irrelevant, like –

  • Search – Ability to discover new websites and relevant services without using Google Search.
  • Adwords – Google relies on clicks for monetization. Siri means no clicks, just talking.
  • Maps – No longer view maps while driving, Siri will look up to them and speak out the directions.
  • SEO – What happens to the SEO ecosystem around Search? Will the new optimization be SVO (Siri Voice Optimization)? How will it work?

Google mastered the standard text-input methodology on Internet (Computers + Mobile). But the threat from Siri is Real. Of all challenges Google faces, Siri is the biggest. The last known big transition for input methodology was finger-based touch inputs (introduced with iPhone). In last couple of years, it replaced traditional keypads on all smartphones.

Siri should be a big bouncer to folks at Google; caught them off-guard and completely unprepared.


7. Android v/s iOS

Google scores a big thumbs up with Android capturing 43% of US smartphone market. Apple lost opportunity in developing countries due to its high-priced iPhones while Android phones & tablets flooded the markets with price points from $75 to $1000.

In my own view – I find Google strategy to enter smartphone market extremely fascinating. Samsung, Motorola, HTC, LG and many others were excellent hardware manufacturers with poor software / applications / user experience capabilities compared with Apple or even Nokia. Google gave what these partners lacked – an mobile operating system and ecosystem of applications.

Distribution of Android phones provided Google the opportunity to monetize the mobile search queries. Current trends in mobile are slightly more inclined towards building Apps & HTML5 websites, most developers and product companies want to ensure a seamless experience on phone and also presence with a native client. Google also aligning itself by directing mobile publishers to Adsense and enabling AdMob for Mobile applications.

Google acquired Motorola Mobility to debut itself as an Software+Hardware play (like Apple?). But it may have limited or no advantage with its own hardware play (through Motorola) as it will face tough questions from global Android partners like Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG and others who are responsible for large distribution of Android OS and its popularity. For now, the Apple dream may look difficult.

There are also few more challenges facing the Android ecosystem –

  • Apple still largest and extremely focused contender with its one-phone market strategy for iPhone
  • Android being open; Consumers have a huge choice for Android phones from $75 to $750.
  • Only differentiation between Android phones are hardware capabilities; hardware edge is tough to maintain.
  • Brands like Samsung, HTC, others will require to have devices at all price-points to ensure growing market share. Only significantly high volumes will bring profits.
  • Tough competition on price from Chinese and low-cost android phone manufacturers.


8. Monetization

2004: Google’s largest contributor to its Revenue: Adwords
2011: Google’s largest contributor to its Revenue: Adwords

In 2004, Advertising was only large scalable online monetization model. In the quarter Google debuted on Nasdaq; Amazon reported profit of just $54 Mn.

In 2011, there are various scalable monetization models:

  • Online Advertising / Search & Display (Google)
  • Online Advertising / Social (Facebook, LinkedIn & similar)
  • Mobile Advertising (Google, InMobi & others)
  • Local Advertising (Groupon, Foursquare & similar)
  • eCommerce (Amazon & others)
  • Enterprise, CRM (Salesforce, Box.net & others)
  • App Stores (Apple)
  • SaaS Products (Dropbox, Evernote, others)
  • Payments (PayPal, Square, others)
  • Smart Computing Devices / Tablets, Kindle, Smartphones (Apple, Amazon, others)

Multiple scalable monetization models evolved over last few years. Google unfortunately has not moved beyond Adwords.


9. Lack of Innovation

Over years, Google is struggling with innovation. Many existing and high potential products are on decline.

  • Blogger: Introduced the world to blogging. Lost battle to WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous.
  • Google Books: eBooks store of the World? eBook for Android phones?
  • Google Docs: Never really went beyond Gmail attachments. Evernote? Box.net?
  • Google News: News recommendation service or aggregation. Pulse?
  • Google Apps: Endless opportunities in Enterprise services.

Google also abandoned or mis-managed on some the big ideas –

  • Chromebook:
    Post launch announcements, not much has been heard about Chromebook project. If Chromebooks were built to optimize over web, why did it not follow the Android platform? Ideally it should have built and optimized version of Android for laptops & tablets (Android 3.1 Honeycomb for tablets came much later).
  • Orkut:
    Google never realized the potential of Social until too late. Orkut which could have been the default Social Networking destination for world, never innovated beyond UI changes and probably never got the resources that it deserved.
  • GDrive:
    Google was to launch an online drive for storage back in 2007; much ahead of Dropbox’s launch. The project was abandoned and Google is reportedly working on its revival once again post Dropbox’s success.

Over years multiple products have evolved that Google has not paid attention to. Some of the hottest startups and businesses today are in product domains like – Multiple SaaS domains, Social Commerce, Social Products, Local Businesses and so on.


10. Failure to execute Acquisitions

If you can’t build it, acquire it. Google has done some awesome job with many of its acquisitions, but unfortunately not the ones in Social. The big lost opportunities here are Aardvark, Dodgeball and Jaiku.

  • Jaiku:
    An micro-blogging service that launched well before Twitter and acquired by Google in Oct 2007 had the potential to be Twitter or a tough competition. Twitter today has over 380+ Mn users and valued at an estimated $8 Bn.
  • Aardvark:
    An social QnA service created before Quora was acquired by Google for $50Mn in Feb 2010 had enough time to learn and innovate. Google announced its closure in Sept 2011. Lost opportunity – Quora is now valued at over $1 Bn.
  • Dodgeball:
    One of the earliest location based social products for mobile was acquired by Google in 2005 and discontinued in 2009. Dodgeball’s founder Dennis Crowley launched Foursquare which is one of the hottest location based products today with over 10 Million users.


Ending Notes

Design standardizations that kill identity of products. Inability to build competitive products and match speed of innovation. Failed attempts at Social Networking. Fascination to promote / push Google+ through its successful products. Failed acquisitions.

Google is currently showing all signs of being the next Yahoo. At this pace, engineers will sense more challenges and opportunities to innovate outside of Google. Its not too late, but yes – Google is in its mid-life crisis.

Concluding Notes for myself and other startups – “Don’t try to do something in everything. Rather focus on doing everything in something.”

Why Indian Languages Failed to make a mark Online!

Why Indian Languages have failed so far to create much desired impact on Internet?

With due respect to companies & entrepreneurs working in Indian /Indic languages – let me put practical thoughts on Indian Languages proliferation in Indian Online industry. Technology is nice, great infact – we love it when we type in English and the text gets converted to an Indic language. Technology does makes us say – WOW!, but it is not enough to assume that millions of Indians will adopt it and it would bring about an revolution in Indian Internet Industry.

Revolution in Indian Internet Industry will be when about 100Mn Internet users in India grows to 500Mn (not in next 20 years, but in next 3 years) & about 1XX Mn Mobile Internet users grow to 500 Mn (not in next 10 years, but in next 2 years). Hope the revolution of this sort does happen – but will acceptance of Indic languages lead to it – answer is definitely NO! The ecology for this change is simply non-existent in India today; and is far from created.

Having worked in the Internet domain – we have repeatedly heard that Indian languages to be the next thing. These predictions actually looked more like “me-too” product offerings – thats worked-in-US will work-here-too. Because China has Baidu does not mean we need one!

Coming back to Indic languages, in my opinion – the languages space has been highly misunderstood. We saw several efforts in this direction over years:

  • Rediffmail introduced feature to send and receive emails in multiple Indian languages many years back. However the usage of this service is not more than 1% of overall service. Ajit Balakrishnan, CEO, Rediff.com said earlier – “Lets not assume that (Indian) users want Indian Languages!”
  • Microsoft started offering its Windows Operating System and MS Office Suite products with Indian language versions since last few years. The adoption rate of same is questionable – to my best positive guess it will be still <0.5% of overall installations.
  • Keyboards / Input devices with multi-lingual keyboards were at one time were hailed as innovations to drive computing to rural India.
  • Indian fonts also saw its own best days when they were introduced to the market.
  • Bi-lingual (English+Hindi) mobile phone keypads were once a rage. Nokia introduced a series of phones and around same time we saw a huge interest in mobile applications working on Indian languages

Most of these services/launches were well received, were thought and perceived to be game changers. Maybe at times even I did think in same way – but while I have studied this space and have interacted with few wise people in Indian & International scene – Can strongly put forward the conclusion that Indian Languages will NOT make a mark in Computing, Mobile or Internet domain. It will not happen very soon – the ecology for such change to happen in India does not exist.

Here are of fews considerations that makes me form such strong opinion and conclude on absence of ecology favoring Indic languages adoption:

Diversity of India:

While this is what makes us proud of India – this is one of the strongest reasons why Indic languages have failed to make a mark.

Consider emerging markets like-

  • Brazil: Over 99% of population speaks in Portuguese
  • Other Central & South American countries like Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, and many other countries have Spanish as the official language with over 90% population in these countries speaking in Spanish.
  • Similar with French – it is widely accepted in many European countries as official language.
  • Consider China – it is as diverse as India, but all most popular versions of Chinese languages are based on standardized version of Mandarin (based on Beijing dialect)

Consider India – while Hindi is leading official language, but no single language has adoption across the country. State governments have endorsed respective regional languages as official, Hindi failed to find the common ground – but English did!

How Innovation starts in Local Language:

Take market like China – The innovators, the early adopters, the influencers, the decision makers, the entrepreneurs – all of them DON’T KNOW English!  So innovators developed softwares, websites, products in Chinese; early adopters used Chinese products and so did the influencers, decision makers, and everyone else in China.

Take India – we know our Mother Tongue (our Mother Tongues are different) + we know English!

English is Aspirational language!

English is an aspirational language. Nothing official about it!

It can be confidently said that the percentage of users who will read/write/speak English language will keep growing for next 50 to 100 years. The same cannot be said about Indic languages.

How new users are learning computers:

For applying to government jobs that involve computer related work, few state governments in India have provided guidelines / benchmarks or minimum criteria based on examinations/programs acknowledged by them. Once such program with examination is MS-CIT for Maharashtra Government.

Had a chance to visit once such center – the communication with students may be in local language – however many users prefer to give examination in English language and during their classes learn computers that have English versions of Windows / Office and other software applications.

Indian languages are complex; Do not follow standard / global script:

One of the most favoring factor for languages like French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc was the fact that they followed alphabets from English language (ABCD…XYZ). No additional fonts, hardware or input devices were required to be created when uses adopted computers usage in these languages – both reading and writing.

In contrast, all languages in India do not follow standard script and are very complex to input and still be grammatically correct. To a small extent, another disadvantage is – like English we cannot drop vowels (AEIOU alphabets) to make shorted and communicable form of any Indic language, an convenient SMS lingo of Indic languages could not be developed.

Even Devanagari script is very complex to be standardized for its multiple languages on a input device like keyboard; even if it were – all languages in India are not based on Devanagari; while in China most Chinese languages have standard Mandarin script.

Internet was built on Content; Indic languages lacked adoption by early movers:

Internet was built over years – the most popular activity till date on Internet has been creation & consumption of content – through content sites, social content, or services & products that communicate through a content (language). While content was created in other global languages based on English alphabets from early days of Internet – it took a long time before content in Indian languages started appearing on Internet. By the time ability to create content in Indian languages was available – English had taken a mighty lead in its adoption as Internet’s mother-tongue for India.

In early days of Internet in India, most early adopters had English as first/second language. It made more sense for these users to adopt English language than create content in Indian languages as content was readily available elsewhere to. Most early and popular Indian websites too focused on creating content in English.

Even if they were to adopt Indic languages – the question will always be – which one to start with?

Indian Languages are great for Consumption; Not for creation!

As users we consume all regional languages through other Media – Television, Radio, Newspapers. Its very easy to consume on traditional media and the ecosystem exists for – content (TV programs, news content, audio content for radio), publishers (multiple TV channels, news papers & radio stations) and advertisers (promoting products in Indian languages). There is huge amount of content produced, audience availability & consumption, and advertiser interest.

Indic languages are great for consumption; not for creation! Ask yourself –

  • How many times have you sent an official email in Hindi? No business may deny communication in lndian language if it gets you more business – but did you send?
  • How many times have you sent an email to an friend in any Indian language?
  • How many times have you composed and sent (not forwarded) an SMS in Indian language?
  • You may talk with your friends in any language – like Hindi, Telegu or Bengali – but did you write email to them in that language?

No Rewards for creating Content for Publishers

Even if large publishers now take efforts to create content in local language – the cost & economics associated with this may not justify the efforts. The questions to ask would be –

  • Is there audience that would accept content in Indian language. If there is – are they online today?
  • Are advertisers willing to include these in media buying plans, develop creatives in multiples of Indian languages – would the right advertisements be displayed to correct audience?
  • How will they get traffic? How will they optimize for SEO? If they post an message on their Facebook fan page – will the users reply back in local language or in English?
  • The monetization – how will they?

Monetization for local language content publishers:

Should we charge consumers to access our content in local Indian languages – that will not work. The debate if content should be free or paid has been ongoing since we have known – its best concluded that content should be free as it has been.

Coming to online advertising opportunities, agencies and publishers need to take extra efforts if they have to cater most of the Indian languages – the time and effort required in doing so may not justify the returns on many metrics.

Even current large publishers like Yahoo, BBC, etc having local Indian versions of its service – feature display advertisements in English itself and have comparatively less advt spots than their English versions. Many small and medium publishers will rely on Google Adsense for revenues – but Google does not do any wonders here. No robust technology available to content sense Indian languages – and even if it were available – there are no advertisements available in languages to match up and show them in relevance. Fill rates for advt-spots would been lower and with fewer revenue generation options – small publishers will think twice before putting efforts on creating Indic language content.

Take a look at large portals in Brazil, France, Spain or China – the ecology exists with an huge array of content providers, publishers and advertisers communication through respective local language.

Literacy Rates of India:

While most predictions about Indian languages are made that it will increase penetration of Internet users in India – we forget to acknowledge the fact that there still exist an huge population that is illiterate. Unfortunately, 35% of world’s illiterate population is in India.

As of 2007, India’s youth had literacy rate of 82%, while that of Chinese youth was 98%. Literacy rates are based on an individual’s ability to read and write, not on his ability to understand or use computers! Hence the addressable Internet market in India for any language will be far lower than the entire population.

Our Generation is learning to give up Indian Languages:

Few factors around us might be making us give up our inclination towards Indian Languages. One of the strongest is influence on Cinema / Bollywood – Indian audience is bombarded with promotions of movies close to its release date, most promotions today feature names of Indian Movies in English characters!

Did you notice that – Ghajini, Dabangg, Golmaal, Rajneeti, or many latest blockbusters from Bollywood came out with posters/promotions focusing with name of movie only in English (or Hinglish). And so are television programs and contests .

While sending SMS’s even to our friends – its easier to type a local Indian language in English (Hindi + English = Hinglish), not just for Hindi but for all languages.

We are slowly learning to give up Indian Languages when it comes to usage on Mobile or Internet.

The Litmus Test for Indian Language Usage !

Amitabh Bachchan on KBC (Kaun Banega Crorepati) asks viewers a question for winning 1 Lac, users are expected to send SMS KBCQ followed by options A, B, C or D.

One fine day if he declares that only SMS in local languages will be accepted. How many users you think will send the answer as  (केबीसी क्यू क, ख, ग, घ)  or any other local Indian languages? Will there be a SMS responses go up or fall drastically?

For a simple message like this – there will be multiple variants in multiple languages.  Try composing this on your phone in Hindi or in your own mother-tongue. Now – Did you get my point about Indian Languages?

Concluding Notes:

There is definitely a pain area that has to be addressed here knowing the potential that can be unleashed will be tremendous. The challenge that needs to be addressed is not about creating a tool to translate content to Indian Languages or simplifying the creation in Indian Languages – but it is about creating an ecology that enables creation, consumption and monetization of Indian Languages!

Notes from above article:

  • Indian languages are based on complex scripts – it may be easier to read content, but not to create it.
  • There is no common ground for one Indian language – hence English takes a lead and will continue to.
  • Although there are technology innovations that lets one type in English and then auto-translate in a local language – but the minimum criteria to use the same is knowledge of English!
  • For Indian languages – it would definitely be the Mobile Story! Mobile Penetration in India is already about 50% of entire population – is the rest 50% a addressable market is questionable – even the new mobile operators in India have to prove themselves.

But with Indian youths – 82% literacy rate and high mobile penetration already are key factors. A solution for proliferation of Indian languages usage needs to be out before English becomes the De facto communication medium and an lost opportunity for Indian languages!