India is the world’s third-largest economy in terms of purchasing power, so it’s no wonder that brands from overseas want to sell there. But they don’t always start out on the right foot.
A default for many brands is print advertising campaigns that mix English and Hindi. This might work for certain markets, but the reality is that with 22 official languages, and a total of 19,000 spoken languages and dialects, the Indian market is far from simply bilingual.
A fascinating, in-depth article shows how and why print advertisements in “Hinglish” are often puzzling or simply ineffective to locals. Hindi is far from the only non-English language spoken in India; in fact, journalist Karthik Srinivasan reveals that it isn’t spoken in many regions of the country.
There is no real Indian lingua franca. As the previous source I linked to explains, if two people from random places in India were to meet, there is only a 36% chance that they would understand each other. In addition, certain cultural aspects of areas where Hindi is spoken don’t apply to other areas.
Read on for some notable “Hinglish” advertising fails, suggestions for how advertising in India could be improved, and a few examples of smart companies who’ve started to truly localize their ad campaigns for different regions.