Home >News >India >Content  in  regional lingo gains traction

NEW DELHI : Streaming videos in Marathi, TV shows in Bhojpuri and advertisements in Malayalam are set to end the domination of Hindi and English as a growing number of Indians are choosing to consume media and entertainment in their own language when given a chance to do so.

Regional languages will make up 60% of television consumption in 2025 from around 55% in 2020 and around 50% of streaming video consumption from 30% in 2019, according to a 26 March Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report.

The year 2020 laid the foundation for the coming regional language surge, with the launch of Marathi music channel Zee Vajwa, Enterr10 Television’s Dangal Kannada, and Enterr10 Rangeela in Bhojpuri. Media experts said the trend will continue, even as the English and Hindi genres may slow down.

“Regional markets have tremendous potential and scope, with many of them underserved, that poses a viable opportunity for expansion to networks like Enterr10 that are keen to expand their presence beyond the Hindi-speaking belt," Arpit Machhar, head of marketing, Enterr10 Television Network, said in an earlier interview.

The lockdown saw foreign streaming video operators such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video ramp up libraries across Indian languages. Existing language-specific streaming service providers expanded their footprint and new regional ones such as Aha came up in Telugu. Marathi film producer Akshay Bardapurkar is also floating a Marathi language video streaming service called Planet Marathi.

Once limited to dubbed TV commercials, advertising in regional languages is also coming of age. The Ficci-EY report said as internet growth is fuelled by regional subscribers, the share of language advertising will grow. Eventually, half of the ads will be made in regional languages, followed by Hindi (47%) and only 3-4% in English, according to the report. This is in line with YouTube’s first regional Ads Leaderboard Report last December that said the top 10 most-watched advertisements in the second half of 2020 were in regional languages.

Karthik Srinivasan, a communications strategy consultant, said brands have realized that dubbing Hindi or English ads in local languages alone wouldn’t work anymore. Even in print, brands have actively started to make small local language additions to their ads or are trying to write local language scripts in English.

“This could be because people are asserting themselves in their native languages, often tagging brands on social media platforms to highlight the lack of local language nuance in the advertisements. In an English newspaper, the probability of local language ads standing out is way higher than Hinglish. Writing local language ads in English script is also a nice way to connect with young consumers in regional markets because most of them can speak the language but can’t read and write it," he noted.

Recently, Tata Tea produced a television campaign capturing various dialects of Malayalam targeted at the Kerala market. Meanwhile, Zomato and Domino’s have been releasing local language print ads across various markets.

The trend also manifests in digital and social media platforms, with India witnessing greater demand and consumption of both local language content and local information.

In its ‘Year in Search 2020’ report, Google said that more than 90% of YouTube users preferred watching content in Indic languages. That regional languages were popular was evident in people using Google Translate 17 billion times to render web pages in Indian languages. In addition, one-third of Google Assistant users in the country are also using it in Indic languages. Social media platform Koo positioned as the desi version of Twitter, launched in 2020, will enter all official 22 Indian languages this year, said co-founder and chief executive officer Aprameya Radhakrishna.

“Our main focus is the localization of the product and introducing new features to make the platform engaging for local language users," he said.

However, Srinivasan pointed out that the Koo positioning of pandering to local language users is a marketing gimmick because platforms are not local; it is the input mechanism that needs to be local.

“Long before Koo came, Google introduced a keypad for Android phones in multiple local languages, which simply meant that people could express themselves by typing in their native language," said Srinivasan.

According to him, audio and video have provided easier ways for regional language users to express themselves online.

“TikTok was a path-breaking phenomenon in that sense, as it made it cool for users to talk in one’s own language," he said.

“I believe that the way forward for digital platforms is not input (text) but voice, which is catching on. We see that through voice assistants Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Siri. I wouldn’t be surprised if these tech companies invest in these services to power more Indic languages," Srinivasan said

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