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The first-ever Bhasha festival unites startups, experts and policy makers to stand up for our local languages; next edition in Dec

As Digital India becomes a reality, an overwhelmingly large number of Indians are at a risk of missing out on the best of digital benefits if critical attention is not paid to the role of Indian languages.

This was the clear message that came out from the first-ever Indian Languages Digital Festival, Bhasha, organised by YourStory on March 11 in New Delhi.

Supported by the Ministry of Culture, the festival featured leading language experts, cultural performers, and other industry experts who discussed the opportunities, obstacles and way around them to ensure Indian languages also thrived in the digital ecosystem.

Inaugurated by the Minister of State (independent charge) for Culture and Tourism and Civil Aviation, Dr Mahesh Sharma, the event saw participation of over 250 people, including startups, language experts, academicians, authors and publishers, all focused on enabling just such a change.

Announcing the second edition of the Bhasha festival in November this year, Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory, said, “Our languages are precious knowledge resource and of immense cultural and emotional significance to be allowed to wither away. We are all committed to ensure their survival and growth in the new digital India that is evolving.”

The highlight of the festival was the startup showcase by 13 startups working in the language space. These included, Lipikar, BiliTutor, Shradhanjali, Planet GOGO, IndianTTS, Megdap Innovation Labs Pvt Ltd., eReleGo, Tide Learning, Matrubharti, Shabdanagri, IndusOS, Linguavista, and Pratilipi.

The panel session on ‘Celebrating the cultural and linguistic diversity of India,’ laid emphasis on the need to bridge the digital gap between India and Bharat and the challenges that individuals and organizations encounter while working with local languages.

There were engaging conversations around ‘Using technology as platform to engage the local language reader, and business models to ensure the commercial success of regional language content providers’ in a panel session participated by Google, ‘Fortune India’ magazine, and Aspada among others. While representatives from Xiaomi, Micromax, Radio Mirchi and Internet radio Radiowalla debated on ‘How companies can go multi-lingual and the challenges in advertising and branding for such companies.’

Saurabh Kumar, Private Secretary to the Minister for Communications & Information Technology, talked about how Startup India can standup for Bharat.


The panel sessions and talks were interspersed with impressive performances by Maati Baani of musical duo Nirali and Karthik, YouTube sensation, popular for their collaborative music with musicians around the world over the Internet, well-known Marathi singer Kushal Inamdar, and an even passionate case for Bhojpuri language by popular Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tewari. The event saw an enthusiastic audience engage with language experts in understanding opportunities in the domain.

Meenakshi Lekhi, BJP national spokesperson, discussed the issue of digital democratization, and stressed upon the critical need to look at Indian languages to truly ensure information, and the benefits of democracy reach all segments of the population.

The time to go local with Internet content is now!

Find out how to reach the next 200 Mn users on the Internet | ...

Indian internet companies are losing out on a BIG OPPORTUNITY by neglecting local languages. http://your.st/joinBHASHAAt YourStory, we'd like to talk, discuss, implement and execute ideas to build a local language internet. Come and let us celebrate the Indian Languages with India's First Indian Language Digital Festival - BHASHA in New Delhi on March 11. To participate, book your spot now: http://your.st/joinBHASHA

Posted by YourStory on Sunday, March 6, 2016


Mahesh Sharma

Dr. Mahesh Sharma

Ministry of Culture,


Anil Srivatsa
CEO and Co-Founder, Radiowalla Network Pvt. Ltd.
Gitanjali Chawla
Assoc. Prof – English at Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi

Manvendra Gupta

Language Lead, Xiaomi India



Purvi Shah

Digital Projects Lead at Pratham Books


Dipendra Manocha


DAISY Forum of India

Abhishek Majumdar
Award-winning playwright and theatre director. Artistic director of Indian Ensemble.

Bal Krishn Birla 

Founder Guesstaurant, TheSongPedia, AdalBdal, Bhoole Bisre Geet, President AskLaila.

Sahil Kini
Principal at Aspada Investment Advisors

Subhashish Panigrahi 

Wikimedia Foundation


Sachin Kelkar

Head – APJ Developer & Partner Program , Intel Software & Services Group


Tanmoy Goswami

Head desk and events,

Fortune India


Manisha Chaudhry 

Editorial Head, Pratham Books


N.K Verma

Chairman, Diamond Publications


Kumar Shah

Head of Strategy and M&A, Micromax Informatics Ltd


Kaushal Inamdar

Marathi singer and music composer


Manoj Tiwari

Bhojpuri actor and singer

Sean Blagsvedt 
Founder & CEO, Babajob
Saurabh Kumar

Saurabh Kumar

Additional Private Secretary
Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology, GOI
Senthil Nathan
The Federal Coordinator of CLEAR
and CEO, Langscape

Dr. Prerna Arora
Associate Professor and Head of the Music Department
Janki Devi Memorial College

IMG-20160304-WA0001 (1)

Aalok Shrivastav


Co-Founder & Head,
Siddhi Foundation a NGO.


N. A. Mahamed Ismail

On-line Editor of Kannada daily Prajavani.


Arvind Pani
Co-founder and CEO,
Reverie Language Technologies

Ravi Sir Pix11

Ravi Gupta
ICT entrepreneur


Maati Baani
Musical Duo


Jatin Nagpal
Indic Web Evangelist,
Google India

Akash Banerjee Author Profile Pic1

Akash Banerjee
AVP – Regional Programming Head,
Radio Mirchi


Dr Deepak Acharya
Herb hunter, scientist and entrepreneur

Key themes for 2016

Content availability in regional languages on the web and on mobile

Making the Internet language-agnostic

Making computing inclusive for the entire India market through local language support

Business models to ensure the commercial success of regional language content providers & advertisers

Central/state government incentives for promotion of content in regional languages

Industry & Govt. efforts to propel growth of local languages & in making the Internet inclusive


In addition to awareness, debates and networking, the festival will promote specific initiatives to get more content in Indian languages online, feature startups in this space, award notable content publishers, release authoritative research reports, and set measurable and actionable targets for the community.

Over the years, the Festival community will ensure that consistent progress is being made in creating Indian language content online in education, healthcare, finance, business and governance.

Special attention will be paid to the concerns of youth, women and agri-businesses. Themes cutting across the festival will include skill development in storytelling, quality standards and the potential in digital industries.

The broader ecosystem support will be assessed in the form of awards processes for digital excellence, scholarships and entrepreneurial funding, as well as digital accelerators and incubators for social enterprises in regional language content.

An inter-disciplinary liaising group comprising observers and working committees will compile success factors, challenges, opportunities, stories and recommendations during the event, who will then present their reports at the end of the Festival.

Market overview


The scale of opportunity in digital India is immense, and it helps to begin by sizing up the market. India has 957 million telecom users. Each month, 8-10 million Indians connect to the Internet for the first time, mostly through a mobile phone. Overall teledensity stands at 78%, with rural telendsity at just 45%. The broadband Internet user base, however, is only 76 million – there’s clearly lots of room for growth and innovation.

In 2015, 50,000 gram panchayats will be inter-connected by the national fibre optic network. In addition to ground-level infrastructure, social media is also a major player among Indian users. Facebook has 100 million users in India, of which 85% access the social networking site via mobile.

Content gap


Despite the growing penetration of information and communication technology (ICT) in India, there is a major gap when it comes to the language for online content – much of it is in English! India has less than 150 million people who are fluent in English and yet, over 56% of the Web is in English. It therefore becomes critical to bridge this gap and comprehensively address the needs of Aspirational India (which is more comfortable in Indian languages) and those who are the cusp of going digital and looking to improve their financial situation. We, as a country, need to do more to create and disseminate online content in our regional languages in a manner that is relevant, well designed, interactive, searchable and community-driven.

Digital Players


Initiatives such as Google’s Indian Languages Internet Alliance (ILIA) are already targeting the next 300 million Internet users who will want content in their own language. Other digital giants like Facebook, Wikipedia and Twitter are also increasing their presence in Indian languages.

Indian language broadcasters and print media conglomerates are increasing their digital footprints, and a number of pure-play Internet portals and mobile startups have also experienced success (e.g. OneIndia, Reverie Technologies and NewsHunt).

Event Agenda

  • 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Registration + Networking
  • 10:00 AM - 10:10 AM Lamp Lighting plus Saraswati Vandana
  • 10:10 AM - 10:30 AM Intro Talk - Shradha Sharma, YourStory Media Pvt.Ltd
  • 10:30 AM - 10:45 AM Culture Ministry - Union Minster for Culture
  • 10:45 AM - 11:05 AM Celebrating the Cultural and Linguist Diversity of India, and the need to bridge the digital gap between India and Bharat

    Panel Speakers:

    Abhishek Majumdar,Artistic director of Indian Ensemble

    Gitanjali Chawla,Associate Professor of English at Maharaja Agrasen College, DU

    Dr. Sudha Upadhyaya, Professor at Delhi University

    Manisha Chaudhry,Editorial Head, Pratham Books

    Senthil Nathan,Federal coordinator of Campaign for Language Equality and Rights

  • 11:05 AM - 11:25 AM Using Technology as platform to engage the local langauge reader and business models to ensure the commercial success of regional language content providers

    Panel Speakers:

    Jatin Nagpal, Google

    Tanmoy Goswami, Fortune India

    Sahil Kini, Principal, Aspada

    Ravi Gupta, Elets

    Sean, Babajobs

  • 11:25 AM - 11:40 AM Talk + performance - Kushal Inamdar, Marathi composer
  • 11:40 AM - 12:00 PM How can companies go multi-lingual and challenges in advertising and branding for such companies

    Panel Speakers:

    Manavendra, Xiaomi

    Harrish Bhatia, MYFM

    Anil Srivatsa, Radiowalla

    Akash Bannerjee, Radio Mirchi

    Sudeer Shetty, Erelego

    Kumar Shah, Micromax

  • 12:00 PM - 12:20 PM Digital democratization - Meenakshi Lekhi
  • 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Lunch Break
  • 2:00 PM - 2:30 PM Performance - Maati baani
  • 2:30 PM - 2:45 PM Startup India should stand up for Bharat - Saurabh Kumar, Private Secretary to the Minister for Communications & Information Technology at Govt. of India
  • 2:45 PM - 3:05 PM The challenges of making regional language content available on the Web and on mobiles

    Panel Speakers:

    Purvi, Pratham Books

    Subhashish Panigrahi, Wikimedia Foundation

    Dipendra Manocha, DAISY Forum of India

    N. A. Mahamed Ismail, Prajavani

    N.K Verma, Diamond Publications

    Deepak Acharya, Abhumka Herbal

    Meghashyam, Siddhi

  • 3:05 PM - 3:15 PM Linguistic freedom, vision for 2020 - Arvind Pani, Reverie
  • 3:15 PM - 4:15 PM Startup Showcase
  • 4:15 PM - 4:35 PM Language as a unifying force - Manoj Tewari, Bhojpuri actor; Alok Srivastava, Poet
  • 4:35 PM - 4:45 Closing ceremony

The Road Ahead

India’s Internet user base looks set to cross 550 million in 2018 in the best-case scenario, making it the second-largest online population in the world. But in the absence of the right enablers, the user base could well reach only 400 million by then. The internet must become a local, accessible and relevant medium for all segments of users: active aspirers, passionate professionals, seasoned shoppers, entertainment enthusiasts, novel networkers, late learners and data discoverers for Indians everywhere – from metros and big cities to small towns and villages.

Rural India is where internet users will increase by leaps and bounds, projected to grow from 60 million in June 2014 to 280 million in 2018. Over 54% of all Internet users in India will be over the age of 25, of which 40-50% will be in rural areas. Nearly 30% will be women and nearly 90% will access the Internet over a mobile device. Clearly, the future user profile will be more rural, more gender equal, older and more mobile – and they will all want content in their own language.

Contact Us

For any queries please write to ildf@yourstory.com

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