This morning when I booked a cab through Ola, I couldn’t help notice that the driver was using a Hindi app interface (instead of the regular English one). The sense of ease on his face was unmistakable and quite identifiable. And this wasn’t the only time I found this. They have been given the Hindi interface out of sheer necessity. But there are millions of Hindi speakers (with no or limited knowledge in English) who would like to be on the Internet. Unfortunately, there weren’t many options till a few years ago. IIT Mumbai alumnus Amitesh Mishra, along with his friends Kalpnesh Gupta and Nikhil Tiwari, chose to channel their startup aspirations in creating one such option for the unprivileged majority.
The trio launched Shabda Nagari, one of the first Hindi social networking portal in India, in January 2015. It is one of the prominent startups that is working on the upliftment of Hindi on the Internet. Kalpnesh says that the company was founded in alignment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India visions.
Vernacular social network is something that might not affect a lot of us directly. But there are a lot of people who would prefer vernacular sites for purposes related to education, entertainment or socialising. And true equality will come only when these people are at par with what we, the English-educated folks, have at our disposal.
What is Shabda Nagari?
Perhaps Kalpnesh defines Shabda Nagari in the best possible way. He says, “Shabda Nagari is a combination of the services provided by Facebook, Twitter, Quora and blogging, but all in Hindi.” So, essentially a user can read news, make friends, and write & discuss on topics. It has a predictive text typing mechanism through which one can use an English keyboard to type Hindi words.
A 25-strong team sits out of an office at IIT Kanpur where it is currently incubated. Kalpnesh says, “In 2014 when we were planning to start up, we found that there’s an acute shortage of Hindi content in India. There were two English pages per person compared to just one Hindi page per 50,000 people. This matters a lot in a country like India where Hindi is spoken by about 41% of the total population. So, we launched a beta version in the third quarter of 2014. After having a successful pilot, we launched a developed version in January 2015. ”
The company claims to publish more than 100 articles everyday, with 1.75-2 lakhs unique visitors per month. Kalpnesh says, “We register 7-8 lakhs page visits every month, 25% of which accounts for repeat traffic.”