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Market Spotlight: Join the race for India’s app market

In the Market Spotlight series, we will research the opportunities and challenges of new, emerging and overlooked markets. We will mainly focus on app markets and how to win them over with your product. So far, we visited China and Brazil, and today, we take a look at the land of a thousand languages – India.

India – a galaxy of potential

India is a cluster of more than a billion people, with more than a thousand languages, on a huge territory famous for spices, diversity and the world largest film industry. Indian economy is in the very global top with its high GDP and English is the second official language. Why is India even on our list of emerging and often overlooked markets you might ask?

In our article on China, we discussed the disparity between the number of native speakers and the online content offered in Chinese. India faces a similar, if not a more complicated matter.

There are more than 300 million speakers of Hindi. According to w3tech, less than 0.1% of websites provides content in Hindi. What’s more, aside from Hindi, there are additional 20 languages that are actively in use in India, and many of them count millions of speakers.

But that’s not all. India boasts almost half a billion of active mobile internet users, while 250 million users are on social media. This market is a galaxy of potential for developers.

Statistic: Digital population in India as of January 2018 (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

App scenery

According to App Annie’s The State of Mobile 2019 report, an average mobile user in India spends almost 3 hours a day in apps. Yearly, that amounts to more than a thousand hours a year per person.

Here are the most favorable app categories by mobile app users in India.

  • Social and communication apps: The most popular app categories in India are, of course, Social and Communication apps. In fact, the majority of the top 5 downloaded apps are owned by Facebook. App Annie’s report points out that almost 120 billion hours are spent on WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook.
  • Video streaming apps – When Netflix extended its offer to the Indian market in 2016, it led to a boom in revenue in the previous two years. Indian mobile users are faithful subscribers to the Netflix service. In addition, apps like Youtube, and Hotstar take a huge chunk of the video streaming market in India.
  • E-commerce and online shopping apps – India loves shopping online. App Annie’s report points out that Indian users spent more than 100 billion hours in shopping apps. India is followed by the USA – with less than 70 billion hours.
  • Food apps – Apps like UberEATS are leading the charge on India’s top app lists. However, it’s not only that the app markets are changing. The wild success of food related apps are influencing the food industry and changing the rules of the game.
  • Finance apps – Additionally, finance and banking apps show a lot of promise in India. Switching to mobile apps allows a huge number of users to manage their finances with a significantly lower amount of administration and saves time.

According to Statista, India held a strong 3rd place when it comes to app releases since 2017. The Indian app market loves new trends and adapts easily, so the opportunity should be used.

Language landscape of India

Language landscape in India is complex. While there are more than a thousand spoken languages, Hindi and English are known as official. In addition, there are total of 22 “scheduled” languages. These languages are recognized by the constitution and Indian states are free to use whichever for official purposes.

It’s important to note that, although English is recognized on a country level, English as a first language is recognized by only about 225, 000 people. The rest, however, opt for other languages, in millions.

LanguageNumber of speakers
(in millions)
LanguageNumber of speakers
(in millions)
Hindi528Meitei1.8
Assamese15.3Marathi83
Bengali97.2Nepali2.9
Bodo1.48Odia37.5
Dogri2.6Punjabi33.1
Gujarati55.5Sanskrit0.02
Kannada43.7Santali7.3
Kashmiri6.8Sindhi2.7
Konkani2.25Tamil69
Maithili13.6Telugu81.1
Malayalam34.8Urdu50.7

The Hindi Belt

Hindi as a language is more of a language cluster since it includes a myriad of dialects. Most Hindi dialects can be found in the Hindi Belt region. The Hindi Belt region encompases more than 400 million people, which makes 41% of the population.

This makes Hindi the optimal localization choice for most developers. By translating and optimizing your product for the Hindi Belt, you achieve a huge number of potential customers who love to spend their time in mobile apps.

Consequently, by localizing for Bengali and Telugu, this number increases by almost 200 million speakers.

Hinglish

When speaking about languages in India, it’s important to mention Hinglish. Hinglish is a hybrid of Hindi and English, where the mix of these languages are used sometimes even in the same sentence. This “urban dialect” is mostly present on social media and has been giving Machine Translation engines some troubles.

If you are looking to translate such content, having a native speaker is a must.

Script romanization

Most official languages in India use the Devangari script, including Hindi, Sanskrit, Marathi, Dogri and others. Since the script wasn’t available during the first boom of Internet, the speakers turned to the romanization of the language. Most keyboards weren’t available with Devangari script, and most software wasn’t adapted to the Devangari layout.

Of course, this changed (thanks to Unicode), but old habits die slow and language never evolves by rules. This lead to several systems of phonetic transliteration of Devangari. We discussed a similar, technology driven adaptation of Greek in our article on writing scripts.

A billion reasons to localize for India

Unlike China, India has an open global Internet market for apps. The low offer of online content localized to Hindi, Telugu, Bengali, and other official languages in India, creates a vacuum in the market. The number of mobile app users in India is on the rise and billions of hours spent on apps are a reason enough to consider localizing for this market.

If you are ready to dive into this adventure, LingoHub is here to help you gain momentum with our seamless workflow and professional translators.