The ever-growing Indian economy is standing at critical crossroads and industries play a pivotal role in development. But where does the language industry stand in the scheme of things? To find out, we got together with Mr. Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Mr. Chenoy is also the former Managing Director and CEO of the National Skill Development Corporation and talks about the important of languages in skilling professionals.
You have headed the NSDC for over 5 years. Was skilling people to become language professionals ever a part of the vision?
Language is always an important ingredient associated with skilling and directly or indirectly, it has to be an integral part of all skilling exercises. At NSDC too, we tried to ensure this. Many of the student training methods were heralded in different languages. However, since the main programme that NSDC had to run focused on entry level jobs, this was parked for later.
While on the topic, why do you think the NSDC’s website isn’t available in all regional languages, especially considering that a majority of those accessing the site might not be well versed with English?
As start-up, we focused on two languages. I am sure NSDC will be working on this.
Now as the Secretary General of FICCI, what is your vision for the industry?
The industry is standing at a critical crossroads with the animal spirits coming back. If we improve the investment scenario, for which the government and the RBI are taking measures regularly (reforms such as RERA, GST and IBC) we will certainly be able to attain a sustained 8-10 per cent GDP growth rate, going ahead. For this though, reforms will have to continue and the capital raising cost of industry must come down besides further improvement in the ease of doing business scenario in the country. I believe, on the basis of our continued efforts, favourable policies and reforms would be laid in the area of Indian Languages Technology industry because this industry has the power to impact the growth of all other allied sectors like IT, Telecom, Manufacturing, Health. Indian languages hold the key to unlock the deeper rural markets of India.
Do you see Indian languages being central to how business can penetrate deeper for a greater market share? Or do you think talking about the power of Vernac is merely the flavour of the season?
English is an important tool to handle business, but vernacular language tools are also important in a country like India to nurture business potential at the ground level. It is vital in the interest of both industries and government. Government has launched many G2C and G2B services, but the reach of those still remains low. One of the reasons for same is existing linguistic divide. A majority of the population for whom such services are important do not speak English, so I think in coming years integrating Indian Languages in business policies and government policies will be more important and doing business in native language will be very crucial for achieving inclusive growth.
For all the demand there is to go vernac, there is surely a supply side shortage. What are your views on how we could bridge this gap?
Yes, I agree. We need to bridge the gap by enhancing the current capacities of the industry workforce like translators. Also, we need to improve the language studies at middle and higher school levels so that students see opportunities in this industry. On the technology side, we are now seeing that many MNCs are understanding the power of Indian language tools and software, and are working to bridge the industry gap. I am confident to say, with our continued efforts, soon there would not be supply side shortage.
MeitY-FICCI have been taking firms steps to promote language technology initiatives. In your opinion, will language technology play a crucial role in opening up the supply side?
Understanding the sheer power of this Industry, we launched the FICCI-Indian Language Internet Alliance (FICCI-ILIA) which has many industry leaders and government bodies as its members. In our few months of journey, we have been successfully able to work closely with MeitY and Industry to take concrete steps in the improvement/ development of this area. The time has come to develop easily accessible and inter-operable technologies for Indian languages. FICCI-ILIA is singularly working with all stakeholders to develop the same. Along with technology and improved language studies at middle and higher education levels, we can effectively solve the problem of “supply & demand”
Any parting advice to language professionals?
Language professionals hold very important place in the industry, and it is important that they are constantly improving themselves on technology and linguistics side. Quality will be the key for Indian language professionals and Indian Language service providers when competing with global players. This industry has the capacity to truly make “Make in India” dream come true and drive the “New India” vision.