Yahoo Indian-language portals to meet mounting online use


Yahoo Inc. has introduced portals in India in seven local languages, to cater to the hundreds of millions of Indians expected to come online in the next few years.

With its English language portal in India, Yahoo can only address up to about 30 million users who are comfortable with English, George Zacharias, managing director of Yahoo India told reporters Thursday in Bangalore.

About 85 percent of India’s approximately 30 million online users now use at least one of Yahoo’s services, according to Zacharias.

Yahoo expects that the number of Indian Internet users will increase to 300 million to 400 million people over the next five years if there are applications in the local languages, and Internet access is improved. India’s mobile phone users are also emerging as important Internet users, Zacharias said.

Yahoo has introduced plug-in modules to its instant messenger, which allows users to chat in nine different regional languages and scripts. In the next quarter, the company is also introducing Indian languages versions of its e-mail service. “One of the first applications that a person looks for online is e-mail,” Zacharias said. Yahoo also plans to eventually add discussion groups, blogs, bulletin boards and other services to its Indian languages portals. The news and other content on these portals will be tailored to the requirements of various linguistic groups.

A number of Internet companies are targeting India’s online users with very specific products and services. The revenue opportunity from advertising is however not yet very large. Online advertising in India was about US$50 million (59,307,086.97 CAD) last year, as compared to close to $1 billion (1,185,901,669.57 CAD) for television, but it is growing very fast, Zacharias said.

The Indian language portals will be particularly attractive in second-tier cities where users are more comfortable using the local language, even if they know English. These are also cities with a growing middle class with significant disposable incomes, Zacharias said. A lot of advertisers would like to reach this audience, he added.


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