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The Importance of Multilingual Products & Services in India

With 10% of its population using English to communicate, India is the second-largest English-speaking country in the world. However, don’t let this number mislead you. Your Indian customers or clients may use English officially – say, while communicating with their colleagues through emails. However, they generally prefer consuming content in their native languages.

In the previous articles of this series, we discussed why it’s essential to understand the linguistic diversity in India and localise languages for Indian consumers.

Why you need multilingual products/services to target Indian audiences

app localization in India

While English is the lingua franca of India, a considerable number of Indians don’t feel comfortable navigating products and services in English. If you own products or services that target a linguistically diverse set of Indian consumers, translating and localising them becomes essential.

Say, you market your product/service in multiple languages aiming to attract various sections of potential Indian customers. They relate to your message and start using your product/service. If your product/service isn’t in their native language, it’s quite unlikely that they’ll continue to use it. In other words, translation and localisation are essential components of both – marketing strategies and product development.

As you can see, it helps to market your product/service to Indians in their respective mother tongues. However, localising it ensures that they become your loyal customers. Let’s take a look at some more reasons why you must translate and localise your products/services for the Indian market:

1) Increase your reach

Gala Global Localization Quote

Business offerings in English manage to reach just 10% of India’s population. The remaining 90% of the population will either not try to understand what you are offering or assume the offering isn’t for them as it’s not personalised enough.

The fast-food restaurant chain KFC faced a similar challenge in the Chinese market. Their ‘western’ brand message didn’t quite resonate with their potential Chinese customers. They decided to localise their entire brand – right from presenting the menu in Chinese to adding dishes suited to their taste. Hence, KFC’s parent company, Yum! Brands launched its Chinese brand, East Dawning. 

Unlike their American menu, which has 29 items, China’s KFC lists 50 items on its menu. They changed their marketing tactics, too. China’s KFC marketed itself as a place where family moments are created. On the other hand, America’s KFC focused on just being a take out place.

Wouldn’t you appreciate selecting from a menu that is in your native language and has been carefully crafted to suit your taste? Similarly, it makes a massive difference to the customers visiting a restaurant.

2) Appeal to your audience with the right cultural references

Each language holds the key to culture. Your native language might have certain connotations for colours, commonly-used terms, and phrases – which makes it unique. These differences exist because each culture interprets things differently. For instance, you don’t see the colour white in some Indian celebrations as it typically stands for mourning in specific Indian sub-communities. This is unlike the Western culture wherein white is considered pure – the bride wears white.

When Colgate Vedshakti launched ran a visual content campaign for promoting their product. This whiteboard animation video has a dadima (grandmother) teaching her grandchild about the home remedies that use toothpaste’s ingredients – cloves, basil, etc. – to treat ailments. However, they created a different video to target their Tamil-speaking customers.

Note: Tamil is the official language of the Indian state Tamil Nadu.

Besides translating the video script to Tamil, Colgate’s team made a few more tweaks to the video to make it more relatable. If you notice the appearance of the grandmother and her grandchild changes significantly. You can see them wearing a tilak on their forehead, just like Tamilians typically do. Also, the grandmother has draped her saree differently.

Similarly, if your product or service incorporates these cultural peculiarities, it’ll make them feel that you understand their needs well.

3) Move ahead of the competition

Even considering the numbers, many popular brands haven’t penetrated the market of the multilingual product in India yet. On the other hand, small local businesses see this as a great opportunity. They develop their product/service and market it in a way that it appeals to all linguistic sections of India.

When Netflix launched in India, it aimed to target the English-speaking Indians who were looking for quality American and British content. A year later, India’s over-the-top (OTT) media services market had another provider – Hotstar. With its regional content, Hotstar aimed to target different linguistic sections of the country.

Unomer conducted in-app surveys which included over 6 million Indian smartphone users, this year. As per their report, Hotstar is ruling the OTT market with a 48.58% share of the audience. On the other hand, Netflix stands at the fifth position with just 12.78% subscribers. Amazon Prime Video, which began providing its interface in multiple Indian languages quite recently, has more Indian subscribers than Netflix.

OTT platform Indian subscribers
Hotstar localised its product and content to stay ahead in the OTT race

4) Create a local online presence

Translating and localising your product/service presents an excellent benefit for your business in terms of local search. Your target customers or clients use local keywords while searching for products or services on search engines. On optimising your website, blog, app, help documents, etc. for local keywords, your local search engine ranking will increase. Consequently, these customers will be able to find your business when they need it.

If you are selling a service – say a restaurant or a salon – which requires your customers to visit you at your place of business, this is a huge advantage. For instance, your restaurant or salon can appear in the “near me” suggestions that search engines like Google provide to their users.

Adobe realised that the organic traffic its website received for non-branded keywords was low. Hence, it started country-specific keyword research. Based on this research, Adobe localised a large part of its content and produced more localised content. Adobe’s localisation efforts helped its content rank better in different countries.

Adobe local SEO localization
Adobe employed localisation to rank better in local SEO search results

To Conclude

India is a few years away from becoming the third-largest consumer market in the world. No matter which industry you are operating in, Indian consumers are a considerable part of your target audience. These consumers are looking for personalised products and services packaged with their native languages and culturally relevant content. Providing them with a perfectly localised product or service is the only way to turn them into loyal customers or clients. 

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