Startup Story #38: White Global – Breaking the Language Barrier

Google has just launched Neural Machine Translation (NMT) for accurate translations for various Indian languages. But, artificial intelligence can never replace humans when it comes to bringing out emotions and essence from a language. White Globe, a startup based in the city is working with over 90 languages to connect various organisations and people world over. Completing a year in July, this venture has entered a market that is yet to reach its full potential.

Founded by Sheetal Ramkumar, Vidya Ramadasan and Amit Kumar, who are alumni of Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore and Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), White Global is the one stop for services in translation and localisation. “I had consulted various heads of organisations who told me that they had missed out on major mergers and acquisitions due to the language barrier. I took a certificate course to learn French and I saw many people who had come there from various organisations to learn different languages even though they were technically sound and had the skill for the job. Apart from this, it is necessary to introduce people to various cultural nuances and sensitivities. This is where the localisation comes to place. There are no proper companies in India that offer opportunities apart from teaching language. The size of the overall global language industry in 2016 is estimated at $40 billion dollars, with estimates of up to $45 billion by 2020,” explains Ramkumar.

Learning a language and studying it has never been considered a lucrative career option but opinions are starting to change. The number of businesses now using language schools like UKLP to set up lessons for their employees just shows how much this opinon is changing. Ramkumar asserts that speaking different languages is one of the growing demands, “We have people who have learnt and studied about a particular language for more than a decade. This industry is dominated by freelancers. It is not just freelancing that is available as an option as translators. There is so much more. We translate brochures, technical manuals and documents, legal tenders and notices, voiceovers and subtitling in videos as well as poetry and literary work not just in foreign but also in Indian regional languages.”

Starting a venture is such a niche market would have surely been challenging as Ramkumar adds that Pune being the hub of various language centres, finding the right kind of resources was difficult, “Pune is one of the top cities that offers language courses but despite this we found it difficult to find people. We also found that a lot of people proficient in a language are used to working as freelancers. They never knew that such options are available. We had to break that mindset. There are professional companies that offer full-time employment. The biggest challenge for us is that we are selling our concept and not a product. We had no similar models or reference points to look up to in India. But this gave us the free hand and opportunity to create our own process.”

As Indian companies are striving for a global presence, many foreign companies are heading to India for a local existence. This boils down to localisation, wherein the culture and tastes of a region are understood for the company to have a better appeal. “Just when we’re talking about Make in India, we help out China and Europe-based companies in this process. Localisation isn’t just simple translation. You have to understand everything about that country, the geography and the local perception. Only a cultural expert can help out in such situations. It combines the cultural and language expertise of a person.”

It is not just languages like French, German, Mandarin or English that are worked with as Ramkumar states that the organisation works with Hebrew, Arabic, Finnish, Danish, Zulu, Swahili and many other lesser known languages.

The future is in technological intervention, says Ramkumar, who isn’t afraid to integrate artificial intelligence while translating, “Technology makes the lives of translators easy but it will never replace them. The human element is here to stay as the tech aspect is only complimentary. In India, we need to take our regional languages more seriously and the government must provide infrastructure for people to learn. There are market research companies who need material in Awadhi and Magadhi. We shouldn’t overlook what we have.”

Giving a quick advice to budding entrepreneurs, she stresses on not being afraid to take the first step, “If you don’t take the first step now then you can be late as everyone is thinking ahead of their times. Whatever happens, take your setbacks in stride and if you have an idea then get into it immediately!”

Vijayta Lalwani

Vijayta Lalwani

The young lady from Lagos has always been keen on a career in journalism. Pune365 was hence the right stop. We agree.
Vijayta Lalwani