We know for a fact that more than 70% of the world does not just speak in one language. In addition, many of these people aren’t even using the internet in English. While several big names in the e-commerce arena are innovate by the second, are we trying to fit in round pegs in square holes? Can a small tweak to newer additions turn out to be a big game changer? Take for example Flipkart’s relatively recent change to an app-only and Flipkart Lite platform. This was enabled for users to use better data and interact better with the brand. Yes, I agree that this might probably double the sales from existing buyers. It might even double and triple Flipkart’s revenue. However, how good a move is this, in a country like India,with a English speaking minority of 10%?

Would Flipkart want to double the revenue from the 10% of English speaking population? I would say that a better idea would be to capture the remaining 60% of the population who do not use e-commerce sites, for they are handicapped by the English language. Is this population sizeable? Do they have money? Is there any use case to prove its worth? Most people in the ‘literate and not-very-comfortable-with English population’ earn to tune of 12 K to approximately 80K. Is this not good discretionary income? Even if they aren’t making purchases online, they are buying goods in physical stores. The best use case is the Google Maps. Have you observed how Ola and Uber cab drivers use maps in vernacular languages? I have seen many of them checking maps in Kannada, Hindi, Telugu. Does it not prove that these people will use e-commerce stores to make purchases from the same phone from their incomes if you make them comfortable?

Another example I can think of, is when I recently came across Alibaba release their numbers for their ‘Singles Day’ (USD 14Bn). What I was most fascinated with, was the scope of the market. When I compared it to US’s Cyber Monday sales (of 2014) of USD 1Bn, given the potential in China, the US market appeared lukewarm.  I then began to ponder over e-commerce trends in India, where I assume that, given the huge Indian population and their discretionary spending, can grow from current levels of Big Billion Day (approximately USD 300Mn for Flipkart and something similar to Amazon) to almost equally exciting levels observed at China. I then began to chart out what Indian players can do, to achieve such numbers. How can they get more buyers? Who are these missing buyers who are currently not under the net of the e-commerce stores?

Every time my cook wants to buy a mobile, he seeks my assistance with the product page on e-commerce marketplaces to narrow down on his desired phone. Not merely because he is not educated. In fact, he has passed 10th class and can easily read and write English words. On an average, he ends buying at least three phones in a year. I have a similar experience with my office security guard. Even the guard is educated and handles documentation at the office desk. Hence, we can assume that his English is also ‘manageable’. Same is the pattern with ticket booking. While most of them are aware of ticket booking online and have debit cards, they shy booking their tickets themselves. They would invariably ask me to book the tickets even when they have all details and their debit cards. What do you think is the missing piece to this puzzle?

The multi-lingual site is definitely a game changer.  It will bring an entire population in to the net, who otherwise get left out.

But is it not very expensive to execute multi-lingual content?

Definitely not in India. All you need is a team of less than 100 executives who will help translating and copywriting content in 13 popular languages of India. That’s not a big deal if you planning to capture the next 30% new users. In fact, with more innovation, you can explore more areas. For example: Alibaba has in place a crowdsourcing site to help vendors translate the content of the products in to other languages. Check this out: http://www.365fanyi.com/ . Indian players can even explore the idea of creating a platform for freelancers and job-givers to achieve this.

In my opinion, this is not an option but the need of the hour. And whoever cracks this first, would be far ahead of competition.  I would say it’s just a matter of time.