Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Portals turning language savvy!

Surajeet Das Gupta | March 22, 2006

Here's some good news for Hotmail users. If you want to email your friend in an Indian language like Hindi or Tamil which you are more familiar with than English, you will be able to do so - soon enough.

Microsoft, of course, won't say when it will start the service. However, at least for the time being MSN - the popular portal it runs - will be launched in both Hindi as well as Tamil by end April.

Says Krishna Prasad, head programming, MSN India: "Eighty per cent of the literate in India do not understand English, so moving into regional languages is inevitable."

Prasad is creating special content for the rural audiences - which include primers on using the PC, lessons for using the Net - and hopes to generate fresh content through the support of the user community.

Indore-based Webdunia.com - the country's largest Hindi portal - gets over 200 million page hits a month (which also includes its other language portals like Tamil, and Malaylam). And its email service e-patra, available in 11 languages, has been a raging success with over 1.6 million registered users.

Buoyed by its recent success it is now planning to double its traffic to the portals this year. And, of course, its revenues too.

Matrimonial portal, Jeevanshathi.com - which launched its Hindi version just a month ago - is elated with the response it's getting.

Says a beaming Sanjeev Bikchandani, CEO and co-founder of the matrimonial portal: "About eight per cent of the users who come to the English portal are going to our Hindi channel, without any promotions. We never expected this kind of a response."

These are just cases in point. English might be the "lingua franca" for Indian portals and its users. But times are surely changing. We suddenly have a bevy of Indian companies taking the first steps to test the waters by setting up Indian language portals.

Surely it is still a market in its infancy - industry estimates that out of 20 billion pages globally on the Net, there are only one million Hindi pages (Tamil would have half-a-million).

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