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Languages and Indian consumers

Languages and Indian consumers

India is often eyed as ‘huge number of consumers’ not only for goods and services, but also for internet. Thanks to low cost internet availability and penetration of mobile phones, Indian languages have made their mark in digital space in India.

Let us see how these two are related

Use of Indian languages are used on internet can be divided in two major categories.

  1. Language itself is consumed, and
  2. Language is a medium

eBooks, academic content, social media blogs, posts, articles are some of the examples where the language is consumed. 

On the other hand, advertisements have language as a medium, just like they have graphics. Same goes with the Entertainment content like movies, YouTube, OTT, songs, TikTok, fitness videos and others. In healthcare and pharma, language is used in various forms, instructions, labels, prescriptions, stationery and others. Customer support telephone scripts, webpages, faqs, audio visuals also use language as a medium of expression These are some of the examples where language acts as a medium.

In both the above categories, the ‘suppliers’ need to make a choice of language that would suit their ‘consumers’.

However, ‘Indian consumers’ is a mix of a number of subsets. The sellers need to identify their consumer class.  The generic Indian consumer is classified by profession (agriculture, IT, student etc.), gender, age, livelihood (salary, stipend, pension, rent, interest, daily wages etc.), income levels, location (urban, rural, north-south-east-west-central), aspiration (upwardly mobile, social service etc.)

The number of internet users is estimated to be 560 million. [More than total US population, but less than 50% of Indian population]. In urban areas, the internet penetration is 64% as against 21% in rural area.

So what languages preferences affect consumer behaviour in India?  The KPMG report, “India’s Digital Future: Mass of Niches,” makes the case that taking a one-size-fits-all approach to the country’s Internet users would be overlooking the preferences of different user groups; thus, missing the opportunity to offer a truly tailored online experience.

It is seen that more and more people consume, search, watch, listen to content online in their own language. The recent discussion by FICCI in April 2020 had the panelist confirm that the response to social media content is 3 to 5 times more than that in English.  One need not explain the RoI.  This can be a good wake up call for sellers to decide which language would carry their message.

It means that ecommerce product descriptions, fb posts and tweets, pop up ads in the readers’ own languages will fetch better results.  When one wants to educate consumers, it is better to use consumer’s language.

Recently there is a marked increase in having the English content translated in various Indian languages, which is a welcome trend.  However, the real impact will be seen when copywriters from the respective languages will think in their own languages and write effectively in their own languages for the people who use that language.

Let me summarise with an observation in KPMG report,“English will retain its position as an aspirational language in India and remain in use in professional and social circles, there is still a big opportunity to be found in the Indian languages. Companies attempting to enter India or strengthen their position in the Indian market should be aware of the language preferences of the country’s digital user groups, particularly given the increasing appetite for online spending.”



  1. KPMG Report Examines India’s Online Language and Content Preferences [http://slator.csom/demand-drivers/kpmg-report-examines-indias-online-language-and-content-preferences/ (accessed on 06 May 2020)

2.       Indian digital market is estimated to be USD 2 bn.  FICCI webinar in April – panelists – social media ads response 3X to 5X than in English.

  1. accessed on 06 May 2020


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