How to Localize Your App for India
India accounts for nearly 17.7% of the world’s population and counts more than 600 million smartphone users. Though Hindi is the official language for government and public communication, it is not the country’s only spoken language. Apart from English, which is used largely in key domains such as education and business, 20 other official languages are spoken every day all over the country.
For an app/game to become popular in India, app marketers need to understand their target audience and tailor their message to reach different people. In this blog, we’ve gathered for you all the information and tips you need to know how to localize your app/game in India.
Understanding the mobile landscape in India
App Store vs Google Play
According to Statcounter, Google owns around 95% of the app market share in India, whereas iOS only owns around 3.7% (December 2021). The rest is shared between smaller operating systems like KaiOS and Samsung, which offer easy access to the internet and apps to users who have affordable phones. Therefore, make sure to prioritize Google Play when targeting the Indian market.
On App Store Connect, app developers are limited to store listings in English (UK) or Hindi, whereas on Google Play, there is a much wider range of language options. Not only are app developers able to have their app store listing in English (India) and Hindi, but they can also add store listings in Tamil, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam. Around 39% of Indians (470 million; that’s 7% of the world’s population), speak one of these six languages.
The table below lists the store listings available on the Google Play Console for languages spoken in India.
Store listing languages available on the Google Play Console in India.
Since Google Play represents over 90% of the Indian app market, we focus our analysis on apps on Google Play.
Top apps and games in India
A look at the top 10 ranked apps on Google Play suggests that while some categories are dominated by Indian apps, others are dominated by Western ones.
List of categories dominated by Indian or Western apps on the Indian Play Store.
In the following example, among the top 10 apps in the Music & Audio and Finance categories, 8 apps in each category are Indian, while in the Games – Casual category, only one is Indian.
Top 10 apps in the Music & Audio, Games – Casual, and Finance categories on the Indian Play Store.
We checked for each app ranked in the top 10 to see whether they were putting any efforts in localizing their store listings:
- Top 10 Music & Audio category: We see that 8 out of 10 apps have a store listing in Hindi. Spotify and StarMaker have at least 5 store listings in a language spoken in India, which includes Kannada, Tamil, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Bengali, and/or Nepali. It’s worth noting the app putting the most effort into reaching the widest Indian audience is an international app.
- Top 10 Games – Casual category: Here, 3 out of 10 apps have a store listing in Hindi. Western games don’t seem to be investing in localization.
- Top 10 Finance: In this category, 4 out of 10 apps have a store listing in Hindi, half of them being Indian apps with at least 5 store listings in an Indian language.
With its metadata and screenshots translated in nearly all Indian languages available on the Google Play Console, Spotify has put a lot of effort into localization. This shows how important it is for a non-Indian app to adapt its message to appeal to and connect with Indian consumers.
While some apps put effort into localizing their store listings, the majority of them only focus on Hindi. Therefore, users whose smartphones are set up in Tamil, for example, will see the main store listing in the default language chosen by the app developer on the console, not necessarily Hindi.
Note: Let’s say that a local app like MakeMyTrip does not have a store listing in Malayalam (ml-IN) and has set up English (India) as its default language. Users whose smartphones are set up in Malayalam will then see the English (India) store listing page.
Though Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India, 60% of Indians do not speak it as their mother tongue. Hindi speakers are mainly found in the northern region of India, while South Indians typically speak regional languages. South Indians may understand Hindi, but they may still lack the vocabulary or not feel comfortable speaking the language. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that Hindi cannot be considered as the unique native language for all Indians.
The good thing is that most people in India speak at least two official languages fluently; so there is always a way to communicate. At school, children are encouraged to learn three languages: their mother tongue, Hindi, and English. Therefore, English has become the bridge between Hindi and non-Hindi states.
Choosing an in-app default language
With such a large variety of mother tongues across India, why do statistics show that most Indians’ smartphones are set up in English?
Due to the slow integration of Indian languages on operating systems, Indians are used to navigating in English. Another reason explaining such a wide adoption of English is that Indian languages are not very well suited for typing messages on smartphones, as some alphabets have more than 40 letters. Many Indians would rather have their default smartphone language set up in English, as it is more convenient.
Despite English being a popular language, other regional languages in India should not be underestimated. A look at these reviews written by Indians to see how they communicate is good proof of that.
Languages used by Indian consumers when writing reviews on the Play Store.
If possible, offering the possibility on your app for users to choose between English or Indian languages would be best to increase your outreach and retention rate. The default in-app language you choose depends on your target audience. Since English appears to be the most popular language for internet usage, we would recommend setting your in-app default language in English.
Flipkart and Dealshare highlight the accessibility of their apps in local languages on their screenshots.
Indian languages are not very concise and usually take quite some space, often more than English. Each Indian language has its own alphabet with a different number of letters, so don’t expect your short description in Hindi to reach the same character length as your English one.
For your visuals, keep in mind that Indian alphabets are very complex, so it is recommended to use a large text font. The example below shows Paytm screenshots translated into multiple Indian languages. Some of them, like Tamil and Malayalam, are very dense and difficult to read, especially as they include long sentences in small fonts. On the contrary, the Hindi captions, highlighted in bold and in a larger font, are easier to read.
Paytm’s first screenshot on the English (IN), Hindi (IN), Kannada (IN), and Malayalam (IN) store listings on Google Play.
Last but not the least, get your metadata verified by a native speaker to make sure your message is appropriate for the target audience.
Localizing your app metadata for the Indian market
App title and short description
On the English (India) store listing, apps would naturally choose an English title, and short and long descriptions, while on the Hindi (India) store listing, we have seen some apps go for fully translated metadata in Hindi or having one field in Hindi and the other two in English. Mixing Hindi and English in one single metadata field does not seem to be a popular practice.
The following example shows the app name and short description of popular apps on Google Play, India. Half of them have translated both metadata fields in Hindi, while PhonePe, Swiggy, MakeMyTrip, Ola, and Dainik Bhaskar have a mix of both languages.
Examples of app titles and short descriptions on Hindi store listings on Google Play.
Some English words have been broadly popularized in daily communication and make more sense to be kept in English rather than translating them into Hindi. In this example, “booking,” “free,” “delivery,” “safe,” “news,” and “paper” are popular English words Indians would use every day.
What is most important for your app is to find popular keywords, which would still be understood by your biggest target audience to drive conversions.
Long descriptions in Indian languages are usually quite dense due to the higher number of characters Indian alphabets have. It’s hard to draw best practices, as some have very long and dense descriptions between 3,000 and 4,000 characters, while others use bullet points and have a much more concise message. Neither did we find apps with differences in the copy or messaging of long descriptions between Indian languages.
Use AppTweak’s Store Listing Preview to test your new metadata (title, short description, and long description) and visualize your localized app page for India.
Localizing your app creatives for the Indian market
In a multilingual country like India, it is even more important to have an icon that conveys the essence of your app. Make sure your icon and screenshots speak for themselves.
Among the Indian apps ranked in the top 12 of the Shopping category on Google Play, India, 6 out of 12 apps’ dominant colors are pretty warm. If we compare the top 12 Western apps ranked in the Shopping category in the US, we see that orange and blue are more dominant while in India, pink and red are the most dominant colors.
Furthermore, Indian app icons tend to have more text and graphic elements than in the West; for example, including brand names and shopping bag visuals.
Icons of top apps in the Shopping category on the Indian Play Store (left) and on the US Play Store (right).
Localization through translation
Among Indian and Western apps that do translate their screenshots into Indian languages, some of them have captions using Indian language characters, while others mix English words with transliterated Hindi as we can see in the example that follows.
Indian app visuals with captions combining English and transliterate Hindi on Google Play.
We found some examples of apps that were not only translating captions in the target language but also adapting the content of the screenshots. This culturalization of screenshots is even more important for apps for which the service varies depending on the users’ language and region.
On its Hindi store listing, not only has Google Maps Go translated its captions but it has also adapted its visuals to India. If we compare this with its screenshots in the UK, the following elements showcase the culturalization of its store listing:
- The maps of London have been changed to New Delhi.
- Background pictures were changed to show India’s city life, local transportation, and monuments (e.g. The Gateway of India, rickshaws, Taj Mahal, etc.).
- The itinerary and transportation options suggested are more relevant to the geolocalization.
Google Maps Go’s screenshots on its English (UK) store listing (left), English (IN) store listing (center), and Hindi (IN) store listing (right).
More relevant visuals influence user perceptions. The more localized and culturalized the app’s visuals are, the more users will project themselves using the app in their daily lives.
Looking at Bumble’s screenshots on its English (US) store listing as well as Hindi (India) and English (India) store listings, it is worth mentioning the following variations:
- Apart from the translated captions, one striking difference is the change of models appearing in the pictures.
- Interestingly, Bumble also uses different models on each Indian store listing. On the English (IN) store listing, models are presented in a similar way as on the English (US) store listing, whereas on the Hindi (IN) store listing, models are standing further away from the camera and women wear more traditional outfits.
- The message itself differs from one language to another: The English store listings focus on the core functionality of Bumble Date, whereas on the Hindi store listing, Bumble BFF is emphasized by being placed in the second screenshot.
Bumble’s screenshots on its English (US) store listing (left), English (IN) store listing (center), and Hindi (IN) store listing (right).
Bumble’s store listings are a good example that localization goes beyond mere language translations. Studying your market audience’s behavior and preferences is essential to adapt your message and drive conversions.
If you don’t have models in your screenshots, don’t forget to adapt your graphical elements. Have a look at PhonePe’s screenshots. Through the various outfit designs of its characters, the top Indian payment app represents the diversity of cultures and religions that coexist in India.
PhonePe’s screenshots on its Hindi (IN) store listing on Google Play.
It seems that Indian games also include local elements in their screenshots when possible. For example, Teen Patti Vote has put some effort into culturalizing its screenshots by adding headlines in Hindi combined with a female character wearing a traditional outfit—the sari. However, as the mobile game market in India is dominated by Western games that have not created local store listings, most of the top chart games do not show localized elements.
Teen Patti Vote’s second screenshot on its Hindi (IN) store listing.
If we compare Times of India’s screenshots on the English (IN) store listing to the ones on the Hindi (IN) store listing below, additional design elements differ between the two:
- The English (IN) screenshots have a much simpler design. Similar to other Western news apps such as BBC News, TOI has included geometric shapes, giving the app a modern feel. The gray background colors soften the heavy contrast between black, white, and red.
- Due to the complexity of the alphabet in Indian languages, it is difficult to add shapes and different background colors. If TOI had added shapes and different colors behind its Hindi captions, it would have probably overwhelmed the cards.
- The Android device on the English (IN) screenshots is placed in the center of the cards, whereas in the Hindi screenshots, the phone’s position varies from the top to the bottom.
- Finally, women appearing in the photographs have a more Western look in the English screenshots than in the Hindi ones.
Times of India’s screenshots on its English (IN) store listing (top) and Hindi (IN) store listing (bottom).
Since the diverse array of Indian languages pertains to specific regions of India (each with its own traditions and cultural uniqueness), apps can even go one step further by customizing their message on the regional level.
Times of India (TOI) is a great example of a news app that has culturalized its content for each regional language. By addressing trendy news articles in regional newspapers, users tend to show more interest and engagement when discovering the app.
Times of India’s screenshots on its Kannada (IN) store listing (left) and Bengali (BD) store listing (right).
Aside from games, videos displayed on Indian app store listings often look like TV commercials. They often start with a conversation between two people in a daily life scene. Whether characters are colleagues, family members, or friends, one person would introduce the app, highlighting its benefits and functionalities. The scene takes place in an everyday setting to which people can relate (e.g., at home, on the bus, at the barbershop, etc.).
Indian apps’ store listing promo videos on the Play Store.
While some apps don’t have their screenshots translated in other Indian languages, some do have a video with audio set in Hindi. As an example, Rapido’s screenshots are only in English; however, the app does have its video audio in multiple Indian languages from the console. By doing so, the app is able to reach Indians who are less comfortable with English and/or who would not spend time reading the long description.
Last but not the least, Rapido displays a video with a different actor depending on the language store listing. For Hindi and Marathi store listings, the actor in the video commercial is Ranveer Singh, a popular Bollywood star famous for Hindi movies. For store listings in Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil, on the other hand, the actor is replaced by Allu Arjun, a well-known actor in Telugu movies. Additionally, we spotted differences in the food being prepared by the characters: korma, a popular dish in North India where Hindi is widely spoken vs. dosa, a relished dish in South India, where Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada are mostly spoken.
Once again, this example demonstrates how marketers can make their visuals more catchy by including famous regional icons and cultural elements.
Rapido’s Hindi store listing on the Play Store.
Paytm has the same video for all its store listings in India, but the app has added subtitles in English for non-Hindi speakers to understand (see the visuals below). This encourages users to watch the video even if it is muted.
Paytm’s store listing promo video on the Play Store.
Other localization tips for India
India is famous for its vibrant colors with which meanings are often intertwined with religious myths. Some colors convey emotions that are different from the West. Thus, it is important to take the time when choosing dominant colors for visuals.
Common color connotations in India.
India, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, is known for its strong cultural heritage.
Symbols can be used to attract user attention and evocate a patriotic feel. Other than the Indian flag, the peacock, mango, and lion are other strong symbols. The rising sun signifies power, energy, and creative force, while the banyan tree represents health and longevity. Other elements, such as local handcraft patterns or folded hands in the form of namaste, symbolize respect and gratitude.
Super Bingo Go 2’s visuals include an Indian flag on its Hindi (IN) store listing.
About 60% of users in India interact with voice assistance while browsing on their smartphones. Therefore, it is important to have the functionality available in your app to facilitate user interactions and engage users with your app/game. The sense of community in India is higher than in Western countries. This involves more frequent oral communication, which can explain the usage of voice assistance.
Vocal assistance feature emphasized on Ludo Comfun’s screenshots on its Hindi (IN) store listing.
Moreover, remember that users may search through voice assistance in their local language on Google Play, which is another argument for localizing your store listings.
With over 20 official languages spoken in India and strong regional cultural differences, localizing your app for the Indian market can be challenging. Here’s a summary of the best practices for app localization in India:
- Understand who your target audience is and which languages they speak the most to prioritize translation and localization efforts.
- As Google represents around 95% of the app market share, Google Play localization should be your priority.
- On the Google Play Console, app developers can create up to 12 Indian spoken language store listings.
- After having your metadata translated by a native speaker, we also recommend using a large text font for your screenshot captions.
- Adapting your message and graphical elements to the geolocalization or adding lookalike models can help increase app conversions.
- Since most Indian languages are specific to different regions, each with its own traditions and cultural uniqueness, apps can go one step further by customizing their message on a regional level.
- With very strong cultural heritages, colors and symbols can be used to evoke special emotions.
- Indians use voice assistance more frequently than Western users, which makes it even more important to localize your metadata.
If you want to learn more about how AppTweak can help you with the localization process, don’t hesitate to have a look at our blogs on localization for high-potential markets: China, Brazil, Korea, Japan.