With 467 million users, India is one of the largest markets for social media. Indians, on an average, are known to spend as much as 2.36 hours per day on various social media platforms, engaging with friends and family, expressing themselves on topics of interest, and providing sneak peeks into their trendy lifestyles. With increased internet penetration and an aspiration to engage and connect with the world out there, the time spent, and the number of users would only increase in the years to come.
Therefore, it is crucial for a country the size of India to become self-reliant and have its own indigenous social media platforms. Presently, social media is dominated by platforms built in the West, which have largely remained beyond the scope of native language speakers. This includes 90% of the population in India which speaks a native language. Individuals who are not proficient in English but are tech-savvy, and who otherwise leverage the internet to shop or transact, hesitate to join social platforms where conversations and expression is largely English-driven. Native speakers often feel alienated on English-first, Western platforms.
To harness social media for public good, it is imperative to empower every internet user – whether they speak English or any other language. This is especially true for India, where nine out of every 10 new internet users speak a native language. India needs platforms that understand the intrinsic needs of a multi-lingual population and design experiences that enable people to freely express themselves in their mother tongue, discover their own language communities and be a part of the social media revolution which is quickly transforming the larger world.
From India for the world
For decades now, India has been a service provider for the rest of the world. But when it comes to tech products, the country has largely relied on Western products, designed to suit the requirements of English speakers. The time has arrived for the country to build and scale its own social media, which will not only cater to the dynamics of a native population, but also address the needs of internet users elsewhere in the world who yearn to experience digital freedom of expression.
Like India, 80% of the world comprises non-English speakers. And multi-lingual expression on social media carries tremendous importance for populations in South East Asia, Europe, Africa and elsewhere.
A world that speaks multiple languages needs social platforms that enable every person to freely express themselves in their mother tongue, interact and hold meaningful conversations with like-minded individuals.
And Indians, by virtue of being multi-lingual and multi-cultural, can better understand the nuances of native language speakers, and hence design and build inclusive social products that can digitally connect the world.
Today, India is only the third country globally, after the United States and China, to have an indigenous social media platform which is consumed by not only its own citizens, but also the citizens of another country. This is a turning point for the country, as it will gradually transform India from a service provider to a product creator, which will build tech-driven platforms that can be easily adapted to suit the requirements of a global population.
In addition to making India self-reliant when it comes to something as basic as ‘digital expression’, indigenous social media platforms will make India shine by breaking the dominance of global platforms. Platforms built with an ‘inclusivist’ approach will empower native language speakers everywhere to let go of their inhibitions, come online, and share their thoughts and opinions in their mother tongue.
India-made platforms will bridge the language divide, champion digital empowerment and democratize the voice of billions across the world. This ‘techade’ would indeed belong to India!