Bol – Love Your Bhasha: Key highlights of the event

The day-long event brought together the brightest minds in business, media and publishing, to talk about the explosion of Indian languages online

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Sep 19, 2018 5:27 PM

‘Bol – Love Your Bhasha' – an initiative by Quint Hindi and Google India, was held on Tuesday, 18 September, in Delhi.

The day-long event brought together the brightest minds in business, media and publishing, to talk about the explosion of Indian languages online. This is the first large-scale inclusive day-long discussion of its kind, completely focussed on the growth and monetisation of Indian languages on the Internet.

Rajan Anandan, Google India Vice President, said that 95% of content consumed on YouTube is not in English, and predicted that the Indian language advertising market would reach Rs 6,000 crore by 2021.

The speakers, including Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, spoke on the need for an inclusive digital space, using Indian languages for business, and democratising the Internet through tech policy. He said, “Regional Indian societies will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the Internet revolution.”

The event threw up many such insights to power the spread of Indian languages online. Here are some of the highlights.

'Need for Digital Inclusivity’

Speaking on ‘digital inequality’, Arvind Pani, Co-founder and CEO of Reverie Language Technologies, shared an anecdote about how despite his schooling in Kendriya Vidyalaya, he lost touch with Hindi after school and English took over as his primary language of communication. “If I had to deliver this talk in Hindi, then I don’t know if I would be able to,” he said.

Calling out the bias against Hindi in the new-age education system, he reflected on the ‘dominance of English’ in higher education – students feel compelled to pick up English, which they might be weak in because subjects like engineering and medicine are English-medium. For each English medium student getting an admission in an engineering college, 10 non-English speaking students face rejection. 
Pani also pointed out that the revolution in the telecom and media industries – booming in India – have included Indian languages.Yet, “Today, you ask anybody about how many alphabets there are in the English language, and they will say 26. But if you ask the same person how many alphabets there are in Hindi or other Indian languages – that need to be represented on a mobile phone or digital screen – you will get inconsistent answers,” said Pani.

‘Digital Democracy via Indian Languages’

Amid a panel discussion on democratising India’s internet through changing tech policies, moderated by Bloomberg Quint’s Managing Editor Menaka Doshi, the panelists agreed on one thing – that a business would be more profitable if it made its reach multilingual. But building a business or app in India in an Indian language just doesn’t garner the kind of attention it does if the same is built in English – this is something that needs to change, the panelists said. There is a need for data in India to be controlled by the Indian people and made available in Indian languages, one of the panelists, Ankush Sachdeva, Co-founder and CEO of ShareChat said.

‘Video Is Language-Agnostic’

In a fireside chat with Google India Vice President Rajan Anandan, Raghav Bahl, Founder of Quintillion Media spoke about how to democratise the internet in a country as multilingual as India. One way to do that, Anandan said, is through the platform of online video as the platform is inherently language-agnostic. This helps solve one of the most serious challenges in content creation in different languages. “Over 95 percent of content consumed on YouTube is not in English,” he said. People’s ease in understanding spoken words, rather than having to read complex sentences, is another benefit that video offers.

Anandan also estimated here that the Indian language advertising market would reach Rs 6,000 crore by 2021.

‘English-Speakers a Microscopic Minority in India’

Speaking at the event, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari stressed the importance of regional languages and called English-speakers and English news consumers a “microscopic minority in India”.
Talking about  PM Modi’s ‘Make in India’ policy, he posed a question: ‘If India can make satellites, why can’t it manufacture mobile phones?’

How to Make Indian Languages More Profitable

In a panel discussion on how to make Indian languages more profitable, the panelists spoke about how Hindi and other regional language-speaking mediums and businesses don’t seem to take themselves seriously.

They opined that in terms of brands, campaigns and technology, Hindi and other Indian languages can do so much more, but they need to put in the effort. The largest advertisers have English websites, and local language advertisers themselves feel that their experience for the user is broken unless it is in English. Advertisers need to have more faith in the local inventory, the panellists said.

What the panellists all agreed on was that advertisers need to get on board with the Indian language content, because language is at a premium.

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