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Google Launches Navlekha Tool to Promote Content in Indian Regional Languages

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Google is aiming to expand its reach to Indian regional language audiences through its newly launched tool, Navlekha.

Most new users rely largely on audio and video-based platforms rather than read-only documents, according to Google, prompting it to launch a bunch of new features in Google Go, which will enable users to open a web page and listen to it rather than read the content.

“Many of India’s new internet users favor listening and speaking over reading text. That’s why we’re launching a new feature in Google Go that lets you listen to webpages. Powered by natural language processing and speech synthesis AI, this technology can read billions of webpages smoothly in a natural sounding voice. It supports 28 languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi and Tamil—even on 2G connections,” Rajan Anandan, VP, India and SEA Sales and Operations of Google, said at Google’s annual flagship conference in New Delhi on Aug. 28.

India has the second largest number of Internet users in the world and every year, around 40 million new consumers find their way to the online world not just from urban cities but from extremely rural areas as well, the company said.

With Navlekha, Google aims to work with an increasing number of Indian language publishers to bring more relevant content online. Data available online currently largely comprises English content and only 1 percent of the content is in regional languages.

Navlekha, its name derived from Sanskrit, meaning “a new way to write,” will comprise a tool that uses AI to render any PDF containing Indian language content into editable text, making it easy for print publishers to create mobile-friendly web content. It also provides Indian language publishers with free web hosting with AdSense support, so they can start monetizing their content. Publishers will also receive training and support, and a branded page domain for the first three years. Navlekhā has already started onboarding publishers from Delhi, and aim to include many more from other regions in September.

The company has a three-way plan to serve Google to the almost 500 million Indian consumers who will access Internet by the next year. The plan consists of “making the internet work for more Indians, making our products more relevant to Indians, and taking the best of India to the rest of the world,” Anandan said.

Google will also expand the number of languages currently available in their existing apps and services.

“The Search feed will now display your favorite news from both English and Hindi sources, using AI that learns which types of stories you like best. On the Google Assistant, we’re adding Marathi (with seven more Indian languages coming soon) and even more Indian apps—like Where Is My Train, Airtel, and Hello English—making them available through the convenience of voice control,” the firm said.

Google also revealed its plan to take the best of India to the world audience. Its payment app Tez, which has collectively transacted worth over $30 billion annually, will be unifying with Google’s other payment app and be known as Google Pay.

By next year, 45 percent Internet users in India will be women, and the rush of the new consumers will help build a diverse cultural experience, the company said.