Startups offering vernacular services get big boost due to covid3 min read . Updated: 10 Nov 2020, 04:24 PM IST
- The customer shift to online services is no longer limited to text based input. Companies have found that many of these new internet users are more comfortable with voice than text.
NEW DELHI : While covid-19 accelerated the pace of digital transformation in India, turning millions of offline users to the online channel, this unprecedented wave of new users coming from smaller cities and towns also created a new challenge for enterprises, given that a large section of this demographic prefers to communicate in their regional language and dialect. The need to cater to the sudden surge in the traffic surge coming from smaller cities and towns, compelled startups to develop vernacular solutions.
From banks to government agencies, many organizations have tapped such startups in the recent months to cater to the needs of the new online users in languages other than English.
“India has multiple languages and we didn’t act upon it on Internet. That realisation has happened during the pandemic. Lots of businesses and government agencies are now looking to use digital channels to engage with citizens and there is no way these entities can just focus on English," said Arvind Pani, CEO, and co-founder of Reverie Language Technologies, a Bengaluru based language tech startup.
Reverie has launched an Indian-language voice solution for the banking industry. One of their solutions, Anuvadak, which speeds up the process of creating, launching, and optimizing a website in multiple languages at cost, was deployed by Government of India during the peak covid-19 months to translate and publish the MyGov Covid-19 page in 10 Indian languages.
The customer shift to online services is no longer limited to text based input. Companies have found that many of these new internet users are more comfortable with voice than text.
Hence, they are turning to voice based solutions to deal with non-English speaking customers.
Axis Bank, for instance, has deployed a multi-lingual voice bot named AXAA, which can handle large volumes of customer queries and requests per day and can be enhanced to support over 10 Indian languages with over 160 dialects.
Developed by Bengaluru based Vernacular.ai, AXAA is built on top of their proprietary AI based multilingual voice automation platform VIVA (Vernacular Intelligent Virtual Assistant) and has been deployed at Axis Bank’s contact centers. The bot has helped customers by addressing their queries in their preferred language.
“Covid-19 has accelerated the shift from touch to talk. The tremendous adoption we are seeing in the past months are for those industries that have a significant volume of customers in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, towns and villages," said Sourabh Gupta, Co-founder and CEO of Vernacular.ai, a Bengaluru based startup.
According to Gupta, during the pandemic Vernacular.ai doubled revenues and witnessed numerous enterprise customers moving to AI-powered call centre solutions.
In addition to catering directly to enterprise clients, Reverie has rolled out a cloud-based translation management platform, Prabandhak, which uses machine learning (ML) to automate the translation process. Launched 3 months ago, Prabandhak already has 35 LSPs (language service providers) and over 1,000 freelance translators on board.
Though start-ups like Reverie and Vernacular.ai cater largely to enterprises and government, several consumer centric startups offering services in local languages have also witnessed strong traction.
Indus App Bazaar, an indigenous app store, crossed the 100 million user milestone in September. Number of apps installed from the store has increased 3.5 times since January while the usage of apps in local languages increased by 2.2 times during the pandemic.
Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, and Bengali were the most popular among the 12 languages available on the Indus App Bazaar and accounted for most new app downloads.
Homegrown online gaming platform WinZO, which is available in 10 Indian languages, also saw a 3x increase in new users coming from Hindi speaking states such as UP, Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. On the back of this growing penetration in the local language speaking population, WinZO recently received series B funding worth $18 million (approx ₹133 crores) from Singapore based Makers Fund and US based Courtside Ventures.
In fact, the overall vernacular startup ecosystem in India has raised $217 million (approx ₹1600 crore) till October 2020, according to Venture Intelligence.
B2B accounting platform Khatabook received investment of $60 million (approx ₹440 crore) from GGV Capital and B Capital. Khata book is available in 11 Indian languages.
Vernacular.ai through Series A funding raised $5.1 million (approx ₹37 crore) led by Kalaari Capital and Exfinity Ventures in May.