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What Google’s Indian Language Internet Alliance needs to do

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Google seems to be finally focusing on growing Indic language content online: It has partnered with several Indic technology companies and publishers to form Indian Language Internet Alliance (ILIA). Google mentions that this alliance will work together to build Indic content and products for the forthcoming “millions of Indians who will be coming online in the next few years”.

The focus here is on mobile products and mobile-optimized content for Indic language speakers, given that the users will mostly be mobile due to the terrible state of wireline Internet penetration in India.

Alliance Partners: Google’s partners in the alliance include publishers like ABP News, NDTV, Network18, OneIndia, Times Internet, DB Digital, Jagran Prakashan, Amar Ujala Publications, Patrika Group and technology companies like NewsHunt, C-DAC, Firstouch, Reverie, HinKhoj, LinguaNext Technologies, Process Nine Technologies, Prost Innovation and Webdunia.

As part of the initiative, Google launched a website called Hindiweb.com, which seems to aggregate websites, apps and YouTube channels that offer Hindi content across various topics at a single place, for better discovery. It also demoed Google Voice Search in Hindi and mentioned that it has released 15 different open source Hindi web fonts to its fonts library and hopes to launch 50 more fonts by the end of this year. NDTV also launched a new Hindi Android app as part of this initiative

The initiative is sadly however limited to Hindi at the moment, with plans to extend this to other languages in the future. So, here’s what I think Google and its alliance partners need to do:

Bring more vernacular partners on board: We are not quite sure why Google is beginning with only the lowest common denominator of Indic content – Hindi language rather than going for a much bigger rollout with other popular Indic languages like Telugu, Tamil and Kannada among others. Note that the company had told during #NAMA Indic that Hindi is only the third largest language for YouTube with Telugu and Tamil being the top two languages.

We feel that Google should look beyond Hindi and bring in more local partners from other Indian languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. I also hope that Google’s alliance partners like NDTV and Network18 add support for more Indian languages to their respective apps.

Improve searchability and discovery of Indic content: Google should focus on improving the searchability and discovery of Indic language content through services like Google News. During #NAMA Indic, Hebbar had mentioned that traffic from Google News has been seasonal: The day their article is on top of Google News, they get sizable traffic but if it doesn’t, they don’t get any traffic.

He had also mentioned that searchability is critical for Indic languages to grow in India, because that leads to growth in traffic and eventually growth in revenues. It will also be critical for Google, because most of the traffic for Indic languages content is currently direct traffic followed by Facebook and then Google. OneIndia CEO Sriram Hebbar had mentioned that Google search accounts for only 20% of the traffic for its Indian language sites as compared to 60% contribution for their English section. More on that there.

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– Indic Play Store: One of the significant problems for Indic apps on Google Play Store is discoverability, since Google Play Store primarily consists of English content.

Google should improve the discoverability of these Indic apps by either providing a dedicated section for these Indic apps or offering filters to allow users view these Indic apps. There is already a demand for Indic language apps as pointed out by Reverie that had claimed that a Hindi language phonebook pre-installed on Micromax’s five devices has seen 450,000 new users in single month without the app being available on the Play Store.

More discoverability on Play Store would mean more consumers downloading these apps on their phones and more developers building Indic-specific apps. This also fits in well with Google’s Android One strategy.

Interestingly, one of Google’s alliance partners Firstouch is also working on something similar, wherein it had integrated a dedicated Gujarati app store featuring Gujarati apps across various categories on their phones targeted at Gujarati-speaking audience.

Bring handset makers on board: Google should bring in handset makers to this alliance and collaborate with them to speed up the development of Indic handsets and address issues like font rendering of Indic languages across different screen sizes. This could also lead to standardization of Indic keypads so that people don’t get confused with different layouts from different handset manufacturers or soft keypad developers. (Also readShould the Indian government mandate Indic languages for mobile handsets?)

Address issues in Indic advertising: OneIndia MD BG Mahesh had earlier mentioned that Indic advertisements give 4x CTRs (Click Through Rates) as compared to English advertisements, however getting specific creatives for Indic languages is tough.

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Google should add support for Indian languages in AdWords, which will enable Indian language bloggers and niche publishers to make revenues, which would possibly enable more publishers to create Indic content across various topics.

Another significant challenge is the lack of certified data points for advertisers to see that Indian languages are growing. Hebbar had also mentioned that there is a big gap between comScore data and their Google Analytics numbers and further, comScore doesn’t track mobile as yet.

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