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Guest Times: Marketing to India versus Marketing to Bharat

Sabiha Khan, AVP, Strategy & Account Planning, WATConsult, points out that speaking in English is not an important indicator of affluence and intelligence. So, the next wave of opportunity lies not so much with India as it does with Bharat. With the immense opportunity lying untapped, it’s time to craft multi-faceted and multi-lingual campaigns for not just India but for Bharat as well

Sabiha Khan

A famous ad man once said, “English is our skill, Hindi is our language”. Yet, most of us think that all of what we do needs be done in the Queen’s tongue. While this is true for most cases, in the world of the Internet, India seems to be shaping into Bharat. Contrary to the past, speaking in English is not an important indicator of affluence and intelligence. With rising disposable incomes and easy access to technology, people who are unfamiliar with correct grammatical usage of the language no longer consider it an impediment to, nor an indicator of, success anymore.

By 2021, around 536 million Indians are expected to use vernacular languages online. Thanks to the affordable smartphone proliferation, launch of Jio and availability of improved data speed, there is an increase in growth of online users from rural areas as well as from the lower strata of society. Google and KPMG released an excellent report on the same earlier this year, defining the opportunities as well as points to be mindful of for reaching out to this growing set of eager and curious audiences.


Due credit should be given to the Indian Government as well. It has been developing avenues to encourage its citizens to leverage the internet. To highlight a few, all government websites are multi-lingual; introducing applications that are easy to use, multi-lingual and functional (e.g. Mahavitran App, BHIM App); mandating mobile phones to feature at least one regional language; and facilitating free wi-fi at railway stations. Thus making a world freely accessible to a segment of society, leading to an evolution of minds and knowledge, all thanks to a growing digital environment.

Additionally, there are efforts by Facebook and Google as well. In late 2014, Google launched the Indian Language Internet Alliance to increase the amount of Indian language content on the web in order to get more Indians online. The search giant also enabled voice search for eight Indian languages earlier this year that helps override the shortcomings of a keypad with respect to regional language input.


Facebook on the other hand allows networking in 12 regional languages – Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Kannada, Sanskrit, Oriya and Urdu. And given the increasing affinity for mobile-friendly experiences, both companies are constantly working on improving the regional language experience with local feeds, improved translation facilities, better targeting opportunities and more.

So yes, there is no doubt that the next wave of opportunity lies not so much with India as it does with Bharat. But how can brands take advantage of this rise?

Here are five ways to start thinking regional, if you haven’t started already:

  1. Create a multi-lingual website/campaign. Even if you want to maintain a premium image, nationalistic pride is strong, especially when regional language is taken into account. Campaigns can deliver more results if weaved in with the right fervour and flavour.


  1. 70% of Indians consider local language digital content more reliable than English content. Think regional in terms of content (not just text but audio-visual as well). Focus on leveraging voice search, prepare for voice-based SEO and understand semantics.


  1. Understand local influencers who are opinion leaders, not just online but offline as well and who can help you get to the masses. Availability of local content will be a key factor in building relevance for brands and for creating breadth in brand awareness.


  1. Consider going hyper local for special occasions or even topical ones. People are not afraid to express opinions in regional languages, which could lead to increased engagement opportunities. In fact, there are a host of language-specific networking and content platforms that brands should try and experiment with (for example: shabd.in, ejibon.com, satyagrah.scroll.in, etc.) rather than sticking to the usual platforms.


  1. Be cognizant of one very important aspect, while access to the internet will no doubt shape ideologies and give rise to aspirations, there are subtle ties to be considered when speaking to an audience which is non-English speaking. Mere translation is not going to do the job. One needs to invest in understanding this audience and tailoring content, communication and campaigns keeping in mind what appeals to them best.

While these are broad pointers, they are meant to work as starting points. With the immense opportunity lying untapped, it’s time we put our minds together towards crafting successful multi-faceted and multi-lingual campaigns for not just India but for Bharat as well!

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)


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