Online platforms key for regional language publishing

The fast growing market for regional language content

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regional language

Abook lover’s comfort zone lies in reading a book in the language of their thought process. One’s mother tongue is a medium in which one can express once’s emotions and connect the heart, mind and imagination. India is very rich in terms of regional languages. There is a saying in India – ‘Ghat-ghat pe pani badle, char kos pe vani.’ The line roughly translates as – ‘The language spoken in India changes every few kilometers, just like the taste of the water.’ Hindi is the most widely spoken language in the country, while Bengali remains the second most widely spoken and Marathi has replaced Telugu in third place of the official 22 languages each of which is more widely used that than those of most countries around the world.

According to a Google-KPMG report published in 2017, internet access by Indian users in regional language will reach 536 million by 2021. This impact of communicating in regional languages has been tapped optimally by business giants Amazon and Microsoft. Seeing Amazon’s exponential sale of regional language eBooks, publishers will get a boost and will be inclined to publish more books in various Indian languages. Smartphones and Internet access at cheaper costs have opened the gates for regional writers and readers in India.

The Internet is a great platform for authors from different regions to showcase their writing talent now-a-days. There is great fiction available in regional languages, which is not available to those whose mother tongue is another regional language especially for older titles. To address this, many online story-telling, content writing and publishing platforms have come up. Some platforms like Kahaniya (an online story-telling and ePublishing platform), are self serviced, where readers and writers interact with each other. Writers can choose their book price too.

There are other online platforms like Matrubharti, where authors sell eBooks and earn money through translation and content writing assignments. Matrubharti buys publishing rights from writers for a one-time fee. Kahaniya, on the other hand, individualizes contracts with its writers—while the platform earns commission based on book sales. On some platforms authors earn royalties on book sales.

A user-generated multi-lingual content-sharing platform, Momspresso, started publishing Hindi content in January 2017, and by the end of that year, page views for its Hindi content had exceeded those for English. The company is growing exponentially with revenue expect to rise from Rs 15 crore in the 2018-19 financial year to Rs 150 crore by FY 2020-2021.

Many traditional publishers provide contemporary regional writing, including poetry both in print and online. For the young generation, short stories are in trend.

To promote regional language publishing and readership, the government of India’s Publications Division, located at Soochna Bhavan in New Delhi, publishes several magazines and journals on various aspects of Indian life in multiple regional languages. Yojana, published in 13 language editions, is the flagship magazine on development-related issues. Kurukshetra is another journal published in English and Hindi. Ajkal, in Hindi and Urdu, is a prestigious literary magazine. Bal Bharati is a popular children’s magazine in Hindi. The Publications Division also provides a platform for regional language authors who can register on its site and submit their manuscript under various categories, which are then offered to publishers on basis of tenders submitted.

In addition, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India promotes books and manuscripts of original writing in Hindi for different age groups. It also recognizes writers with awards such as the Bharatendu Harishchandra, Balbharti and Rajbhasha awards. u

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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