14 May 2014

Hindi website a waste for global sports brands

Perhaps due to the buzz generated by the IPL cricket competition, it seems global sports brands are falling over themselves to tap into the Indian market these days. No longer is India only about Bollywood and BPOs, bats and balls are also making great headway in the country.

Just the other day I was reading an article in which a prominent owner of a sports club talked about how he wants his team to make inroads into the lucrative Indian market. One idea he floated was his club potentially launching a Hindi language website to lure Indian fans.

Whether the Hindi language website plan was serious or just a convenient example that popped out of his mouth during the interview is not clear. Either way, the idea is a total waste of time and resources, and goes to highlight the importance of really understanding a market before attempting to conquer it.

The great majority of web savvy Indians are more than comfortable with English. When surfing the web, most actually prefer it to the local vernacular – which in many parts of India is not even Hindi! Furthermore, the target market of these global sports brands are likely middle class Indians with disposable income, most of whom grow up attending English medium schools in the first place.

When I was working at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the AFC Hindi site received less than 15 hits a day on average and a few of them were probably just the in-house Hindi writer checking to make sure his articles appeared correctly. Soon enough the AFC found little value in the Hindi website and closed it down.

An argument could always be made that the media buzz or goodwill generated from the announcement of a Hindi language website could have some value, but that is certainly not a viable long-term strategy.

Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, and a quick search of official websites of IPL franchises and Bollywood films shows that hardly any of them have a Hindi mirror site.
Now let me be clear, by no means am I trying to dismiss the importance of Hindi and other local languages when marketing in India. For example, in terms of advertising and video content the use of the mother tongue may be very powerful. This further supports my earlier point that understanding the nuances of the local market is vital.