Google is one of the few multinational companies to be considered a thought leader in India, in large part because it has worked hard to adapt its products to the Indian market.

In continuation of this strategy, Google announced on Tuesday that it is expanding its translation services to include five more Indian languages, taking the total Indian languages available to translate on Google to seven. But will the introduction of new languages help Google to reach a wider audience and, in turn, larger market share?

On the surface, yes.

Google’s translation services were already available in Hindi and Urdu. With Tuesday’s announcement, users will now be able to use Google’s translation tool to translate to and from Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. The recent addition to its linguistic services offering will widen the search engines reach to cover at least half a million more people in India and Bangladesh.

“India is uniquely poised to be the biggest Internet economy after China, with over 100 million Internet users. At Google, we’re excited about this opportunity to help bring even more users and businesses online, and drive local innovation and economic growth,” said Rajan Anandan, Google India Vice President.

“In the last few years we have helped bring Internet to the masses through various Indian-specific innovations like SMS-based search and various local language products,” he added.

But Google India has some challenges ahead.

The success of these new language translation services that Google offers depends on the accuracy of the tool, says Asheesh Raina, an analyst at Gartner Research, a US-based IT research and advisory company.

The search engine works well for those who use English or Hindi as a second language, says Raina. Hindi is spoken by 30 per cent of the country’s population, and dominance of English on the internet is well-documented.

Google’s new services also include transliteration for those who do not have regional language keyboards, but Google admits that the translation of the newly added languages may be not a hundred per cent accurate. It expects the translation tools to improve over a period of time to match its Spanish or Chinese offering.

“Despite these challenges, we release alpha languages when we believe that they help people better access the multilingual web,” said Ashish Venugopal, Research Scientist, at Google.

While Google offers its search services in local languages in India, Google search results in local languages are limited to the few sites that exist in that language

Moreover, on YouTube, for example, Google only offers a Hindi interface, and not a search facility in the language on the video portal.

Google’s new translation services will help reduce costs for India’s small-scale regional entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the national level without having to rely on local talent for language services alone, added Raina.

But Google has a long way to go if it wants to offer a truly “Indic” web: there are over 200 spoken languages in India, according to UNESCO.

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