Indian Website Localization
May 19, 2010
If you wish to be successful selling your products or services on-line to the highly strategic Indian marketplace, there are many factors to consider, from cultural and linguistic to consumer preferences. This blog post will provide highlights on understanding Indian consumer behavior and Indian cultural values in order to achieve optimum Indian Website localization and globalization.
India is the world's largest democracy and has 22 recognized languages with over 100 linguistic dialects. Although English is widely spoken and understood in the Indian business world, the subcontinent has keen cultural sensibilities that need to be addressed for successful Indian website localization. Consumer demand is rapidly growing amongst Indian population segments that prefer to use Hindi (the world's third most widely used language) for e-Commerce purchasing.
India has the world's second largest population (after China) and is another cornerstone of BRIC, the acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China. BRIC represents the four largest economies outside the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). If the BRICs were to set aside one-sixth of their reserves, they could create a fund the size of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For more information on websites for BRIC countries, see our previous blogs: Brazilian Website Localization, Russian Website Localization and Doing Business via the WWW in China.
Key India Market Statistics
- India's Gross Domestic Product is $1.131 Billion with annual growth around 7.5%.
- India's population of 1.156 Billion includes an Internet population of 81 million (internetworldstats.com).
- Children are considered precious to Indian families, and parents of all income groups do everything they can for their offspring.
- The bicycle is still the primary form of transportation in India, and 65% of Indian households own a bicycle.
- The amount of time a person spends online in India increases with the age of the user.
Insights into Indian Consumer Values
- Family: Family ties, both nuclear and extended, are extremely important to Indian consumers. It is expected that families will share resources with their members. In addition, families often go shopping together, if only to window-shop.
- Luxury Brands: Brand name items, such as Hugo Boss and Luis Vuitton, as well as high-end chocolates and perfumes, are gaining traction within India. Historically, these items needed to be purchased abroad, but stores are now opening in India that sell these items to all consumers.
- Movies: India is a country that is highly influenced by films from Bollywood, which dictate fashion in clothes and often activities, such as weddings.
- Price: The consumers of India do not want to seem cheap, but price is an important factor in decision-making. Therefore, instead of always looking for the lowest price, they look for the best value-for-money.
The Hindi Language
Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language and a direct descendent of Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha. Over 180 million people speak Hindi as their first language and over 300 million speak it has their second language. As a result, Hindi is the third most spoken language in the world.
Standard Hindi, along with English, is one of the 22 official languages of India and is used for administration of the central government.
The primary script used in India for Hindi is Devanagari, which is written left-to-right and utilizes the Alphasyllabary writing system. There are several important features of the Devanagari script:
- Consonant letters carry an inherent vowel which can either be altered or muted by means of diacritics or matra.
- When consonants appear together in clusters, special letters are used to conjoin them.
- Articulatory phonetics is used to determine the order of the letters.
Hindi Language Facts and Tips
- Diacritics: These marks also known as matra, can be placed above, below, before or after letters to represent different vowel sounds.
- Numbers: Hindi numbers can either be represented by either Devanagari Script or numeric digits, for example ९ versus 9.
- Double-Byte: Hindi is a double-byte language and single-byte will not work.
- Letters: Hindi words can change depending on the context. Therefore, articulatory phonetics is used to determine the order to the letters in a word.
- Script: There are several scripts that can be used to write Hindi. The most common script is Devanagari script, although some Arabic scripts can be used for Hindi letters. It is important to consistently use the same script throughout the translation process.
Cultural Considerations for Indian Website Localization
An ancient culture like India has a long list of symbols and icons that carry special cultural meaning. It is important to be aware of them to avoid any cultural blunders and inadvertent use of offensive symbols.
- Feet: Feet are considered unclean. Therefore, one should not point their feet at another person. In addition, when one's shoes or feet touch someone else's it is important to apologize.
- The Head: The head is considered the seat of the soul. Touching another person's head should be avoided.
- Finger Pointing: Pointing with a finger can be interpreted as an offensive gesture, at times denoting annoyance, and should be avoided.
- Unlucky: The colors black and white are considered unlucky.
- Animals: Cows are considered to be sacred creatures by Hindus.
Use of Color in Indian Websites
Certain colors carry specific meaning and symbolize aspects of Indian culture:
- Red: Purity, fertility
- Yellow: Merchants
- White: Unhappiness, mourning
- Pink: Femininity
Indian Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Indian Websites must be optimized for mobile users due to the large segment of the population who make purchases on websites without a computer.
- Use Google Trends.
- Create a directory structure of listings of localizations.
- Title tags and headings.
- Sub-domains, folders: India.example.com for India
- Common words and expressions. For example: use Green City Bangalore or Pink City Jaipur, not just Bangalore or Jaipur
- Do not use IP Redirect.2.
- Use back links from geographic specific sites
- The key to promoting a website internationally is to create localized content and keywords, register local domain names and then promote it through local search engines, affiliate marketing, online and offline branding and positions.
- A search engine marketing campaign for India should be multi-dimensional for both short-term and long-term success. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns on targeted websites and search engines should be specific to India and also to the various geographic regions of India. There are 22 languages spoken in India and each region has its own vernacular. It might be appropriate to utilize terms and languages from a specific region to become more familiar with those targeted consumers.
- Long-term search engine marketing plans should include the use of keywords in Hindi, English and possibly a secondary targeted langue for a specific region of India. This is due to the fact that Hindi and English are the languages of the government of India, but there are also 22 other official languages of India that represents the preferred languages of the different regions of India.
- The top level domain in India is .in. Other domains that are popular in India are .com .in, .info .in, .net .in, .gen .in ,.info .in ,.biz .in, .com, .org, .net, .info, and .biz. There are currently approximately 2.5 million Internet hosts in India.
Creating Indian SEO and Indian SEM for Optimum Search Rankings
When planning your Indian website localization, it is important to research cultural and linguistic issues for the specific market and region that you are targeting. Keyword list localization is a very different process from standard translation. You should ensure that your Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and/or Localization Agency has the necessary experience and understands your requirements in order to perform this service. With experience and understanding of project goals, your localization partner can provide you with appropriate localized Hindi keywords which will ensure that your Indian content is optimized for Indian search engines and will produce maximum results.
For more information, you may wish to review our previous blog on A Multilingual Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Primer.
Globalization Partners International has created a more extensive overview of website globalization for Indian consumers in a white paper, Website Globalization and E-Business India, which is available via a free download. You may contact GPI at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 866-272-5874 with your specific questions about this market and your project goals. You may also request a complimentary Localization Quote for your project as well.
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Martin Spethman - Managing Partner
Martin has over 20 years' experience providing documentation, software and website globalization services. Throughout his career he has held numerous production and business development positions, including project manager, operations manager, web master, account executive, VP of sales and marketing and owner/managing partner. Martin has established and managed translation offices in Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland, the United States and the UAE. He has overseen hundreds of successful globalization projects every year since 1987, ranging from large volume, multi-million word documentation sets to complex, high-profile websites for Fortune 500 companies.