Playing by the new rule: Vernacular content take the lead

Whether Professional Networking Sites, Microblogging, or Short Video Apps, there is a visible shift towards regional content. And this shift was made possible by several Indian entrepreneurs who clearly understood users’ consumption pattern and behavior and their need for hyperlocal content and accordingly developed Apps that eventually evolved as stronger hubs for engagement and interaction.

The content consumed by users on any platform is more of a personalised one that is a reflection of their culture. When regional content are packed in an interesting way, they keep the users hooked. As per report published by Google and KPMG some time back, 70% of Indians find local language digital content more reliable. 88% of Indian language internet users are more likely to respond to a digital advertisement in their local language than English, and 90% of all video consumption happens in local languages.

With such high engagements, brands prefer to use the regional community Apps to understand customers’ preferences and culture better, creating memorable experiences with customers and building brand loyalty.The penetration of the internet across tier 2 and 3 cities in India is much known. It has enabled indeed opened doors for brands and digital marketers to new markets.

Another factor that increased usage and engagement with the local content is uncertainty that community saw during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The curiosity for local updates, the craving for staying connected and interactions probably made these regional Apps more indispensable. Social connection is fundamental to humans. And nothing is better than being able to converse in your local language. 

Short-video Apps: TikTok is still missed?

Short-video apps are top-rated in India. The brands also use this format extensively to influence their target audience. The format is interesting – short to keep the attention span and video format suitable for products and services. 

TikTok had become a big part of everyone’s life in India till the government of India banned it in 2020. This ban was one of the hundreds of Chinese apps banned, including PUBG mobile games. The number of TikTok users in India was estimated to be up to 119 million, creating ample opportunities for influencers to make a sizeable income from the platform. It was estimated that banning the App had caused an income loss of about ₹120 crores each year for the top 100 influencers. 

Many home-grown apps emerged to fill in the gap and take advantage of the space. Moj (founded in June 2020), Josh from India’s local news apps Dailyhunt, Roposo. MX TakaTak, Chingari are few those took the lead. Though these Apps are yet to match the popularity TikTok enjoyed. Nonetheless, daily active users spend close to 30 minutes on average on the apps. 

As per a study by a Consulting firm, Redseer, released last year, users were more adaptable to the home-grown platforms, with 75% of them unwilling to switch to the Chinese platform even in the absence of any ban. 

Ujjwal Chaudhry, Associate Partner, Redseer Consulting, said:

In less than one year post TikTok ban, Indian platforms have shown a strong V-shaped recovery, bouncing back to almost 100% of the pre-ban daily user base. This shows how platforms were able to design the product, execute their plans and market it aggressively in a concise period. This is a strong indicator of how the Indian digital ecosystem has matured in the last few years.

He further commented that despite the growth, Indian players are yet to reach the global and cross-sector benchmarks on engagement and retention, which is expected further to grow the monetization potential for the entire ecosystem.

Microblogging: Koo might leave behind Twitter soon?

When we talk about Koo, we cannot simply ignore Twitter. Both are in microblogging network space that allows users to create and engage content on issues they strongly feel. Microblogging sites have their challenges owing to short content. Though it is a challenge, that story is old, and the end-users have well-accepted the format. Twitter has 300 million active users globally. In India, it has around 25 million users. 

When Koo was launched in India in 2020, everyone wondered why users would shift from the already established Twitter to a new platform. Nevertheless, the site surged past 10 million users in only one year. In another few months, the user base touched about 15 million. 

Those numbers are awe-inspiring. That’s the power of empowering more people by giving them access to express themselves in local languages. The App is available in 10 languages, including English, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Assamese, and Gujarati. More languages will be included soon. 

Apart from this language factor, other reasons contributed to its growth. In an interview with the Hindu Business Line, Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder, and chief executive officer of Koo App, said:

We came into the limelight because of Twitter’s tension with the government, but users soon realized they can express in their mother tongue only on Koo. Our App connects English-speaking India to non-English speaking India in a country with 700 million internet users, and that’s powerful.

Professional networking: Apna App vs. LinkedIn

We are all aware a professional networking site is much more than having a profile and job database. Had that been the case, job portals would have primarily fulfilled the needs. Professional networks are more about career development and a platform to showcase ideas and expertise. 

However, for the non-English speaking Indian professionals, there wasn’t any scope till a few years back. LinkedIn, the only professional networking app available, was in English then. As per a report in Mint, White-collar professionals who engage in tasks that require higher-order skills—the likes of engineers, doctors, accountants, teachers, marketing professionals, and BPO workers, among others—make up just 4% of India’s estimated workforce of 390 million (as of April 2021). And the present professional networking Apps catered to the needs of this segment. 

To find solutions to these problems, Nirmit Parikh founded Apna App in 2019. Nirmit realized professional networking is n only sought by the English-speaking workforce residing in metro cities. Jobs are beyond the white-collar. Nirmit capitalized on the vast opportunities the market offered. The recruiters are not concentrated in metros; there are jobs in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. With the start-up revolution in India and the pandemic, the talent market has seen trends never witnessed before. 

In 2021, the Apna App was reported to have served more than 16 million users and 150,000 employers, enabling an average of 18 million job interviews each month. Known for connecting millions of blue-collar workers to employers, it reached unicorn status within two years. It has raised $100 million in a Series C round joined by Owl Ventures LLC, Insight Partners Inc., and Sequoia Capital India. 

Potential employers could avail the relevant database for their recruitment needs from the recruiters’ side. 

LinkedIn, a bit late, entered this market in December 2021 by launching ‘LinkedIn in Hindi’. As per the company’s statement, the move is to support 600 million Hindi language speakers globally. “With this launch, LinkedIn aims to break down language barriers, providing greater access to professional and networking opportunities to Hindi speakers in India and around the world. 

This step also brings onboard more users and gives an impetus to growth to the saturating network. 

LinkedIn has roped in many influencers like Ankur Warikoo, international life coach Gaur Gopal Das, monk-turned-entrepreneur Dr. Vivek Bindra, and nearbuy.com founder Ankur Warikoo share their first Hindi posts on their LinkedIn profiles.

 ‘Vernacular’ at the core is indeed a total game-changer for the brands. Localized platforms generate much higher traction, reaching out to a broader set of audiences and leading Indian content platforms to cater to audiences in various Indian languages, including Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Punjabi, to mention a few. People who prefer to consume content in their native tongue have a stronger emotional attachment to the brand.

To conclude, hyperlocal content with distinctly regional feel is the future of engagement.

Sevashree Mohapatra
A strategic Corporate Communication leader and technology enthusiast, I have more than 20 years of experience in content, corporate communication, and Strategy. Having worked in major media houses and MNCs like Hindustan Times, Ogilvy, ArcelorMittal, and Suez, I have helped brands to create value for their customers.