App multilingualism is the future of mobile markets

By @chelean on
A smartphone with an Android operating system and the Baidu Browser application is seen in this picture illustration taken February 22, 2016.
A smartphone with an Android operating system and the Baidu Browser application is seen in this picture illustration taken February 22, 2016. Reuters/Damir Sagolj

In 2011, Google’s engineering director Dave Burke proclaimed that the future of speech would be influenced by mobile, multimodalism and multilingualism. Speaking at the Second Annual SpeechTEK Europe Conference, where over 50 delegates had to use translating machines for them to understand him in their language, he said, “Language technology solutions can maintain cultural diversity while enabling communication and collaboration.”

Fast forward to the present, many would agree with Burke, especially on his thoughts about the smartphone boom and the emergence of multimodal apps. Dom Einhorn, CEO and co-founder of digital marketing firm M6 Limited, is also a proponent, believing that multilingualism is "the much-needed push apps need for them to become a global phenomenon."

After deciding to build a unique business and finance app for mobile devices, Einhorn aimed to improve the multilingual aspect of the app to further audience reach. This stemmed from the fact that most news apps on the market are focused on English content. The endeavour led to Born2Invest, a business and finance news app that curated news content from various reputable news outlets around the world. The app is available in more than 24 languages.

“Our core focus lies on the non-US and UK centric markets, including the non-English markets. We intend to become a major player for news curation in markets like Sub Saharan Africa, SE Asia and Eastern Europe. These markets are huge in size, monetisable immediately and hardly addressed by our ‘Silicon Valley-centric’ and valuation-obsessed competitors,” Einhorn said.

Veering away from US or UK centrism is not surprising. According to the latest  Mobility Report  from Ericsson, total global mobile subscriptions will reach 9.2 billion in 2020. A large fraction of this number will come from emerging markets where the number of middle class consumers is continuously growing.

Similarly, Internet-based businesses in emerging markets will grow by 2 billion next year, surpassing mature markets by almost 200 percent, according to EY  Global Media & Entertainment leader John Nendick. Many of these emerging markets are non-English-speaking countries, and catering to the local language allows mobile companies to maximize their potential for growth and consumer engagement.

“Every one of our competitors has one thing in common: they appear to be chasing the same (fickle) ‘general English news market.’ M6 Limited builds niche content with an addressable and identifiable audience, starting with a business and finance app in English yes, but via 24 plus foreign language iterations as well,” he said.

Born2Invest is continuously working on news iterations for non-English countries in Europe and South Africa. The company is launching a partnership with the University of Hanoi to establish its Asian team, which will be trained and led by the company's executives from Manila.