Experts say the vernacular market in the country presents a massive opportunity for e-commerce players. As per a recently released report by RedSeer Consulting, there are 530 million internet users in India, of which 260 million users are ‘monetisable’.
By Devika Singh
E-commerce major Flipkart recently launched its Hindi interface, allowing for its products across platforms (website and app) to be browsed in the language. Amazon, too, now offers Hindi browsing options on its website and iOS app; last year, the global e-commerce behemoth had introduced Hindi on its mobile site and Android app. These efforts are an attempt to capture the next 200 million users.
Experts say the vernacular market in the country presents a massive opportunity for e-commerce players. As per a recently released report by RedSeer Consulting, there are 530 million internet users in India, of which 260 million users are ‘monetisable’. The report says a large share of this audience, 80% or about 210 million, prefers content in vernacular languages and are likely to drive the growth of consumer internet, with $300 billion in annual spending power. However, sustained efforts beyond just providing language options will be the name of the game, say experts.
After having introduced its Hindi interface, Flipkart is now gearing up to introduce audio-guided navigation on its platform to help new users on the platform. “We started with Hindi and the plan is to go ahead with other languages as well in the future. Within a year, we plan to introduce southern languages on our platform,” says a Flipkart spokesperson. Experts say Amazon, too, would use audio in some way to tap new users, given that it already has voice technology (Alexa).
As per Amazon India, Hindi use on its platform has grown six times since the launch and customers are heavily using features like ‘scan and pay’ and ‘UPI payments’ in Hindi. “We are eying the current set of 150 million customers, with an added aim of bringing e-commerce through Amazon to the next set of 100 million customers in India. The Hindi product is a big enabler,” says Ravi Desai, director, mass and brand marketing, Amazon. The e-tailer has created a separate campaign for south India for its upcoming Great Indian Festival sale.
However, it is crucial to go beyond language offerings to usher in growth. “Many of these users would be using e-commerce for the first time. E-tailers need to create comfortable experiences that encourage frequent use, as first-timers would require a lot of hand-holding in the entire purchasing process,” says Ujjwal Chaudhry, director, RedSeer Consulting. “It is not only about the language but also about converting the nuances of English originated e-tailing to a more localised context.” Analysts say the experience right now is very suboptimal and e-tailers need to up their game. “Companies are not doing enough and they are not doing things quickly enough. They should be quicker to move into these vernacular markets and quicker to address the needs of people who are outside the English-speaking borders,” says Devangshu Dutta, CEO at retail consultancy Third Eyesight. He cites an example of a news app start-up he had mentored a few years ago. “We pushed the company to look at local languages, particularly Hindi. The moment it introduced this, downloads exploded,” he says. “It is a myth that the audience that does not speak English is not tech-savvy or sophisticated.” Customisation is also very important to tap such users. Amazon initially used algorithms and technology to translate its offering in English to Hindi, which did not work. However, it has now adopted a more colloquial version, as a result of which the Hindi listings are similar to their English version.
“The product description, as well as the type of products in the feed, need to be more customised to suit audience needs. In the interiors of India, the average order value at which customers will buy is going to be different than metros. And the products will have to get curated keeping that in mind,” observes Ankur Pahwa, partner, EY.