On the final day of Languages Week, a panel discussed the role voice will play, as even more Indians come online.
On the final day of Languages Week (Friday, October 30), a panel came together to discuss the promise of voice in a world where local language is gaining popularity by the day.
The panel was moderated by Anirban Roy Choudhury, associate editor at afaqs!. It saw participation from Anurag Kumar, chief communications officer, Tata Sky; Rajneel Kumar, business head, expansion projects and head of products, ZEE5 India; and Shamsuddin Jasani, Group MD, Isobar South Asia. The presenting partner of the session was ABP Ananda and the powered by partner was Colors Marathi.
Jasani began the discussion by mentioning that his six-year-old son was an early adopter of the digital medium, and that he constantly used Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant voice tools while browsing. He added that six years ago, most children were mobile users. But now, they are more used to talking directly to the devices, irrespective of whether it was a handheld device, a smart tablet or a voice assistant, and mobile phones may lose their charm, in that sense.
“Since English literacy is a problem in India, so voice is a big deal in Tier-II and III cities. Voice plays an important role because it breaks that barrier. Right now, voice, as a feature, is mostly available in Hindi and English, but once it diversifies into more languages, we will be unlocking the potential of 1.3 billion Indians.”
Jasani added that language is the future of voice, and clients need to start building for voice – which will become more prevalent in the next two years or so.
ZEE5’s Kumar mentioned that when the Alexa voice assistant was first introduced in India, there was a hypothesis that it is possible that two segments will adopt it – the young and the old. He added that people in between, who are used to typing and visual searches, would continue with that for a little longer before adopting it.
“The number of apps which are there on voice devices now are very clearly targeted at two types of consumers. For the young, who are looking for stories, nursery rhymes, music, etc. At the other end, the slightly more mature audiences are looking for news across various segments on voice. So, you really see that while there are many types of ads, these have been doing quite well."
Kumar added that as a platform, ZEE5 supports 17 different languages: 14 Indian and 3 international languages. Voice search is an integral part of this platform, according to him.
“It has been important to build it out for the last couple of years... It will be one of the strategic pillars... Any service, which is being built, will have to make sure that just like they get the UI right, the UX right, the personalisation right, they will have to get the voice right...”
Roy Choudhury of afaqs! said that voice has gone beyond the spectrum of smart assistants, and pointed out that all of MG Hector’s ads feature British actor Benedict Cumberbatch speaking to his car. Tata Sky’s Kumar mentioned that voice has, indeed, become an integral part of the company’s technology roadmap, not just in the context of the newly released Binge+ box.
Kumar also said that Google and its CEO Sundar Pichai have been emphasising on speech from the beginning – going back to the 3 Vs that will drive growth: video, voice and vernacular.
“The data revolution is already upon us, and we will increasingly see voice searches driving Internet adoption in local languages. All the content platforms that are working on getting different languages on board – adoption will accelerate that process.”
He elucidates that when Tata Sky Binge+ was taken to the consumers for a focus group study, many exclaimed that if it had a voice command option, their parents would be able to use it. “The idea is that for someone uninitiated, who is not digitally savvy, they will find it easy to use.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Kumar explained that digital adopters, such as young children, are talking to smart speakers, using their cars for navigation, watching smart TVs and so on. He added that the work that brands like Swiggy and Tata Sky are doing, using voice as a means of engagement, will ensure that the ecosystem becomes bigger in India.
Isobar’s Jasani pointed out that so far, voice technology used artificial intelligence (AI), but apps like WhatsApp are also being used simultaneously for voice (in the form of voice notes) as well as texts. “Right now, voice is restricted to consuming video and audio content, so it’s a navigation function.”
Watch the full discussion here.
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