Editor’s Note: This article was first published on September 5, 2018.
Amazon is going beyond English in one of the world’s hottest internet markets.
The tech company unveiled a version of its mobile website and Android app in Hindi on Tuesday. Hindi is the most popular language in India and the “mother tongue” of roughly 530 million people, according to the country’s census.
US tech companies are racing to attract customers in India, a country where tens of millions of people are using smartphones to access the internet for the first time.
Amazon (AMZN) said it had used a team of language experts and translators to choose “commonly used terms over perfectly translated words” that make its website easier for Hindi readers to navigate.
“Our aim is to ensure any customer can find anything they want on Amazon.in, anytime and anywhere, irrespective of the language they speak or where they come from,” Manish Tiwary, vice president of category management at Amazon India, said in a statement.
Amazon has not completely ditched English. While mobile menus and navigation are written in Hindi, users in India still have to search for products and read reviews in English. The company said it is working to add other features like product reviews and ratings in Hindi.
Hindi is also not yet available on Amazon’s iOS app or the desktop version of its website. Amazon said it would inform users when those platforms get the language, but did not reveal a timeline.
Amazon, which on Tuesday became only the second company ever to cross $1 trillion in market value, is pouring billions into its India business to compete with local rival Flipkart (which was bought by Walmart earlier this year).
The push into Indian languages could be the key to capturing the country’s hundreds of millions of new internet users over the next several years.
A study last year by Google and KPMG forecast that by 2021, around 536 million Indians will access the internet in their native languages compared to 199 million English-speaking users.