We missed this earlier: In what is an important development for Indian language enabling of India’s Internet, Reliance Industries has acquired a majority stake in Reverie Language Technologies: RIL, India’s largest business conglomerate, has acquired an undisclosed majority stake for Rs 190 crores (around $27.3 million a current conversion rates), and will invest Rs 77 crores (almost $10 million) by March 2021. The investment has been made via Reliance Industrial Investments & Holdings (RIIHL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries. Reverie will work towards integration of its Indic language localization services with RIL’s digital consumer platforms. It will continue to operate independently, and serve its existing clients. Started in 2009, in 2015, Reverie had raised $4 million from Aspada Investment Company, with participation from Qualcomm Ventures in 2015.
In a blog post, the company points says that:
Indian language standards have not received due attention from Indian companies solving Indian problems. And, sometimes the standard developments have been influenced by foreign companies for whom India is a focus market but Indians are not at the core of it. Reverie intends to work with government regulatory bodies to establish Indian language standards keeping the interest of Indians in mind.
What’s interesting to note is that Reverie provides a voice suite (called Gopal) in 12 Indian languages (Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Assamese, Odia, Punjabi and Indian English), which can be integrated with both chatbots and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solutions which companies can use to engage with non-English speaking customers. It says that the speech recognition engine is “dialect sensitive”. The company also has a speech recognition system that can be used as an input took, for voice typing, converting speech into text. Reverie also runs Prabandhak, a marketplace for Indian language translations. It also has an Indic language keyboard app called Swalekh (download), which was launched in 2015.
This investment needs to be seen in conjunction with Reliance Jio’s objective to bring more people to sign up for its wireless broadband service, and provide them with content and services to consume. For Reliance Jio, Reverie potentially adds a missing piece of the puzzle: it has been using low cost handsets and cheap data to drive usage of its services among people for whom the Internet was previously unaffordable, but the issue has often been having Indian language capability, and more importantly, voice enablement of services. Add Reverie’s technology to those services, along with the AI chatbots that Haptik has.
Need for Indic languages on the internet
At our #NAMAindic event a few years ago, Reverie co-founder Vivekananda Pani spoke about the challenges for Indic languages on the web, and put forth a wishlist. Worth revisiting that now: