App in your language?

There is a huge comfort in speaking, reading and writing in your own language. However, the Internet, at least in India, has largely been a bastion of English language. Of course, there have been some remarkable examples of sites in regional languages, but there is still a long distance for these languages to cover on the net.

On the mobile, in terms of both SMS-based VAS as well as apps, the story is similar. In a country with 22 constitutionally approved languages, there is not one app or service like, say, China’s Baidu. The diversity of cultures in this case dilutes the numbers.

There are enough studies to suggest that regional mobile content market is not something to be ignored. For instance, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market research firm IMRB International have come out with a study that says there is a huge demand for regional content.

With mobile penetration higher than broadband penetration, the mobile is being increasingly seen as the medium to reach out to the Next Billion. The mobile networks have a huge potential to drive governance services in the area of education, healthcare and public information systems to those who need them.

The problem so far has been the lack of a truly convincing business model. Advertising is hard to sell for regional content. The Indian love for the movies, though, is one sure-shot direction to look for advertising revenue—promotional content for Bollywood or Tollywood or any of the regional movies.

But will that be enough to make investing in regional mobile content a viable option? I wonder.

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