Google Navlekhā — Vernacular Content Revolution
IndraStra Open Journal Systems
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Google Navlekhā — Vernacular Content Revolution

By Kevin B. Simon

Image Attribute: The logo of Google Navlekhā

Image Attribute: The logo of Google Navlekhā

On August 28, 2018, Google Inc, during its fourth edition of Google for India Event in New Delhi, announced their new initiative called Project Navlekhā with an aim to help Indians publish their content in regional languages by aggregating India’s nearly 135,000 Indic language periodicals & publications online in a hassle-free manner.

In April 2017, Google in collaboration with KPMG India had identified that by 2021, there would be 300Mn unique local Indian vernacular language mobile users accessing Social Media and Digital News publications on a daily basis.  As per the findings, the main reason for the same was stated as high Internet penetrability, stable 3G/4G connections & distributed Mobile handset availability. More the average users spend time on the internet would encourage Internet platforms to solely focus on specific language content. Also, smartphones are not useful unless they work in people’s primary language and provide access to great content in their native tongues. So, now businesses need to invest more in reaching Indian language users, particularly based-out of Tier 2+ markets. This, in turn, will increase the adoption of mainstream services.

With this initiative, Google is expanding its "spectrum of collaboration" with Indian language publishers and aims to "bring more regional & relevant content online". Currently, they claim, the amount of online content in regional Indian languages is only 1 percent of what's available in English. This Navlekhā initiative intends to help Indian publications gain more readership and recognition without going through the hard struggle to sell & publish their written copies physically.

Named Navlekhā, a word derived from Sanskrit means "a new way to write.", Google intends to bring in this transformation by providing a tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) which deciphers and collate any PDF that contains Indian language content into copiable & editable text, making the process smooth for these indigenous print publishers to create mobile-friendly web content. Here’s a sample page by Google.
Image Attribute: Sample page of Navlekhā on Mobile
Image Attribute: Sample page of Navlekhā on Mobile

Indian language publishers are given free web hosting with appropriate AdSense support, so they can immediately start monetizing their content. Publishers will also receive free training and support from Google, and a branded, dedicated .page domain for the first three years.
Image Attribute: How can publishers benefit from Navlekhā? / Source: Google Navlekhā
Image Attribute: How can publishers benefit from Navlekhā? / Source: Google Navlekhā

At the registration page, Google collects Name, Publication/Company Name, Email Id, Mobile Number, Office Address, Website URL (if any), Language of the publication, and Publication's RNI Registered Number for Navlekhā. It has already started onboarding publishers from Delhi and expected to onboard many more from other regions in September.

Image Attribute: A screenshot Google Navlekhā Registration Page / Source: Google Navlekhā

Image Attribute: A screenshot Google Navlekhā Registration Page / Source: Google Navlekhā 

The major local player in this segment other than Google are Bengaluru-based, self-publishing platforms Pratilipi and DailyHunt - which allows Indian publishers to share their content online in eight regional languages including Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam.

Other On-going Google Projects in India

Apart from Google Navlekhā, the search giant is going into a few other India-centric projects. Google is bridging distances with Google Station by partnering Andhra Pradesh State FiberNet Limited to cover over 12,000 villages, towns and cities in the state of Andhra Pradesh with high-quality internet access potentially reaching 10 million people.

India still has to overcome a challenge to rise from illiteracy. That's why Google is adding "Listen to" options to web pages powered by natural language processing and speech synthesis AI which enables to convert billions of web pages smoothly into a natural sounding voice that supports 28 languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, and Tamil — even on 2G connections. Thus hooking users who favor listening and speaking over reading the text.

Google has also updated Google Maps by providing better guidance to public transport riders, informing them of upcoming stops and automatically sending alerts when it’s time to get off. By partnering up with RedBus, more than 20,000 inter-city bus routes in 1,500 cities will be added to Google Maps.

About the Author:

Kevin Simon (ORCID: 0000-0002-2962-8008) is a Marketing Professional at Cognitio Innovo, with a keen interest in technology-driven businesses. He is graduate in management studies (MBA) from the Institute of Management, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.