IndiaN cities alone can boast of being larger markets than those in many countries, but they pale in comparison to the potential waiting to be tapped in its rural, non-English speaking hinterlands. No surprise then that the country’s technology firms, start-ups or otherwise, are widening their net by offering users the option of using non-English languages to navigate their platforms.
Flipkart this week became the latest to do so, launching a new Hindi interface in an effort to tap deeper into smaller towns and cities. “Industry research suggests that 90 per cent of new internet users in India are native language speakers... So, it becomes imperative to offer a native e-commerce experience to impart familiarity, comfort, and aid in decision making,” the company said.
A Hindi interface option offers the company the capability to tap into a rapidly growing non-English speaking, but tech-savvy user base. “Hindi is a language whose internet use base is expected to outgrow English by 2021,” the company noted.
According to a recent report by Redseer Consulting, steadily rising mobile internet penetration will result in an additional 320 million internet users from tier-II and tier-III towns by 2023.
Flipkart sees the roll-out of the Hindi interface, with more languages set to be introduced later, as a key tool in its plans to tap into the next 200 million users who come online. “As a homegrown company, Flipkart has the advantage of understanding the Indian market and all its nuances in a much better way. We are committed to developing solutions that will help the adoption of e-commerce by the next 200 million consumers who come online,” Flipkart Group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said.
According to the e-commerce major’s chief, it has already deployed around 80-90 per cent of its resources towards “solving for Bharat”. The Hindi interface, Krishnamurthry said, would be one of the biggest catalysts in this transition. “As language is a convenience and not a barrier, we believe this native language capability will play a significant role in further adoption of e-commerce in the country.”
The Walmart-owned firm, going forward, will launch support for various other Indian languages on its platforms, further aiding customer ease and acquisition. Last year, Flipkart had acquired Liv.ai, an artificial intelligence start-up that has built a platform that converts speech to text in 10 Indian languages.
“This capability becomes essential for customers to experience the comfort and convenience of shopping in their native language,” said Jeyandran Venugopal, senior vice-president, Consumer Experience and Platform at Flipkart. “We took a holistic approach of understanding consumers... to determine how native language can be made available in Flipkart to improve their understanding of e-commerce, reduce guesswork and make online shopping more engaging,” he added.
Flipkart is not the first e-retailer to roll out support for Indian languages. Amazon had launched its own Hindi user interface last year, and a Hindi chatbot just last month. While Amazon has said it is working on regional language interfaces for its voice assistant Alexa, Google Assistant has already rolled out support for various language preferences.