SMEs employ close to 40 per cent of India's workforce and contribute almost 45 per cent of India's manufacturing output. Most importantly, they play a critical role in generating millions of jobs. However, due to their low scale and poor adoption of technology SMEs in India are afflicted with poor productivity and returns. Though the scenario is improving, the pace of change is quite slow, though it need not be. A rapid expansion of the internet in the vernacular Indian languages could change all that and pretty fast.
An integration of the need and scope for the emerging SME Sector and the power of a vernacular search engine can create enhanced engagement for the language specific audience, as it is a known fact that the larger section of Indians (including a good part of the white collar Indians) think and consume information in their spoken (native) language. The advantages are exemplary, as apart from interacting with a large user base through vernacular search engine due to the immense ease of the interaction in Hindi and other languages, we will also have an evolved and informed audience developing its own path of business opportunities in the various sectors. The lack of language adaptation in the jobs / service industry is an important insight to identify the scope of opportunity especially with the magnitude of SME’s in India.
However, currently most of the relevant aspects of a webpage that help search engine rank content better tend to be in English. User generated content from participation in social and professional networking sites in most languages is still missing. Whatever little is happening is predominantly in the English language and in the roman script. This makes the job of a vernacular search engines all the more difficult and forces them to remain in the sidelines of mainstream internet search domain.
Despite this obstacle, understanding search behaviour is very important for a non-English search engine because it revolves around the following unequivocal fact for countries who do not have English as their first language; the fact that users may learn English but do not think in English. Vernacular Search platform thus have a very crucial role to play in these languages and countries.
Vernacular search engines have the ability act as the catalyst that can encourage more popular content development as they connect the right user to the relevant content. By routing larger traffic they channelize the demand that can lead publishers to create more content.
So, how can an SME utilise the power of language search engines to enhance the services? Just as an example Naukri.com being in Hindi could cater to a wider set of audience through Hindi search engine wherein they share and interact with users looking for specialised jobs relevant to SME companies and vice a versa.
Once this content generation is catalysed, publishers especially for vernacular content have to move from just putting content and optimizing for search to optimizing their presence on the web. For example, a company offering a product would want to ensure that its product page is in the concerned language, the online order store is in the language, the brand ambassador is communicating in the same language and the user interaction are in the same language. What now is being referred to as WPO (Web Presence Optimization) will be the future that drives content creation on the net and vernacular search engines would need to address this and account for this.
Similarly, the vernacular search portals like Baidu from China and Yandex from Russia have raised a language barrier making it necessary for global investors to adapt to the same. Internet penetration in these countries is growing along with the growing number of internet users; this has created a condusive environment for SMEs and start-ups. Being vernacular in nature these platforms are facilitating these companies to connect with the audience at the grass root level and streamline their message effectively.
This is very likely to be the future scenario in India, where the usage of vernacular language is no different than these countries, with almost 90% of the population using the popular media in their respective native languages only.
The author, Peeyush Bajpai is the Co-founder of Indicus Netlabs, the company behind the leading Hindi search engine Raftaar.