India will soon become world’s first voice-driven Internet market: Rajan Anandan

Rajan Anandan, VP, South East Asia & India, Google, and Raghav Bahl, Founder, Quintillion Media, discuss the role of technology in building an India-specific Internet at an event in Delhi

by Apeksha Mishra
Published - Sep 19, 2018 8:57 AM Updated: Sep 19, 2018 8:57 AM

India, home to more than a thousand regional languages, today thrives as one of the largest English speaking countries in the world. However, this growth of English language has led to concerns that India’s own languages shouldn’t die.

At a fireside chat held in Delhi between Raghav Bahl, Founder, Quintillion Media' and Rajan Anandan, VP, South East Asia & India, discussion was held on the role of technology in building an India-specific Internet that is efficient enough to serve the multi-linguistic country was an event in Delhi that hosted a fireside

The chat commenced with Raghav Bahl raising some pertinent questions on whether it is fair enough to compare the Indian market, which is so linguistically diverse, with countries like Japan, Korea & China that are mainly monolithic in terms of language. The Chinese market has 500 million people who speak the same language, but India has 400 million who speak at least 20 different languages. Looking for ways to resolve this contradiction, Bahl questioned Anandan if building an Internet that’s specific to each language spoken in India is a solution?

Anandan replied with a yes. He said, “This way, one can find both challenges and opportunity to co-exist as we work towards accomplishing an Internet catering to India’s diversity.”

Anandan pointed out that platforms like YouTube could act as an interesting proxy for what one could do with Internet in India. YouTube has a reach of 250 million users and a video platform as large as this represents almost all languages. “This helps to create content must faster and in varied languages for a wider audience. Today, construct of videos has successfully overcome some of the major challenges in content creation, like that of accessibility,” said Anandan.

Acknowledging Anandan’s thoughts on videos, Bahl stressed on how the platform today had the ability to be language agnostic and thereby lead to democratisation of content, creativity & production. Drawing a parallel, Bahl referred to the world of television of the mid 90s. He explained how viewers & producers were only aware of a handful of channels both in Hindi & English then. But 10 years down the lane, the story seems to have evolved, with the regional market emerging successfully.

Discussing the role of Indian government in this scenario, Bahl said, “We are not looking for government funding and policies. Our only expectation from the government is to act as a regulatory framework.”

Throwing light on some key measures for companies to invest in and become an Indian Internet company, Anandan said it was crucial for a brand to tailor its content, product and services in multiple languages so as to be national and offer a seamless experience to all its users.

He added, “As an eco-system, we are already in the process of building the Indian Internet that will cater to multilingualism in India.” However, Anandan also believes in the concept of building large flourishing businesses based on one language over time.

Referring to the recent launch of a set of voice features on Google Go at the 4th edition of Google for India event, Anandan said, “Voice in the Indian Internet is exploding as users today seem too keen in talking to the Internet instead of tapping or typing.”

Looking at figures denoting the explosive growth in the voice segment, Anandan claimed that India would soon become the world’s first voice-driven Internet market, where voice will be both the primary input & output. Anandan opined that voice in Indian languages combined with video would be the new Internet product in India. This will be a concept very different from what has been built so far in the West, US or China. India’s language diversity will be the sole driving factor behind this innovation, he said.

According to Google statistics, the online advertising market in Indian languages will hit the Rs 6,000-cr mark by 2020.

Speaking about content consumption, Anandan said 95 per cent of all content consumed by Indians on YouTube is not in English. Not only this, but also the language is of negligible significance while discerning online video monetisation figures.

Speaking about maintaining parity in distributing content among publishers in the advertising industry, Bahl pointed out that Google and Facebook consume almost 90 per cent of the online advertising revenue. He said that there’s a need for large platforms to find ways to ensure that their partnership with publishers is more equitable in terms of shares.

Responding to this, Anandan said, “Interestingly, in the last two years, the combined share has gone down. But publishers who have the right content for valuable audiences are able to generate reasonable revenue even today. For us to have a thriving open Internet in India, everyone needs to participate. Hence, we are working closely with quite a few publishers & not just few selected ones.”

Having said that, Anandan also indicated that the business model of publishers shouldn’t only be ads. It should also include subscriptions, referrals, driving commerce etc.

Talking about the economics of digital publishing, Bahl said revenues would come to digital publishers in due course of time. He said, “Cost structure of a digital publisher is very different from that of a television broadcaster. Nearly 50 per cent of television broadcasting cost is either spent on distribution or on media infrastructure. While distribution & infrastructure cost is almost zero in the digital world compared to TV or newspapers, there isn’t a high degree of conversation between the distributor & publisher in the digital space.”

Toward the end of the session organised at the launch of Bol: Love Your Bhasha, an initiative of Quint Hindi and Google India, Anandan spoke about distribution in digital publishing. He shared his thoughts on how the use of mobile web & apps together has created something that the content industry had never witnessed before. “The idea here is different on quite a few measures, some of which include the cost structure; the ability to reach the customer, content as well as the distribution measures,” he said.

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