Of Languages and Translation and the Millions yet to be made!


Being the social animals that we are, we need to connect with each other and language affords us the medium for acquiring and using complex systems of communication. There are 7,105 known, recorded languages being spoken in the world, right now.

While many perceive that English is the ‘langue de leur choix’ (language of choice) for almost everyone on earth; nothing can be further from the reality.

Mandarin and Spanish account for a much larger populace, apart from the 100 other languages that are spoken by at least 0.11% of the world’s population. (wiki link)


Languages and translation are a huge, albeit very-meagerly tapped market. In India itself, we have 18 official languages and 30 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers; 122 by more than 10,000. But aren’t so many people speaking so many different languages, missing out on a significant part of the information available out there? The opportunity presents itself.

Introducing Gengo (link URL:  ), the service that gives you professional, people-powered translation in one click and helps you ‘communicate freely’.

Gengo (a Japanese word meaning ‘Language’) founded by Robert Laing, uses a network of more than 7,500 pre-screened and rated translators to provide high-quality translations in over 33 languages.

Gengo recently raised a $12 million funding round led by Intel Capital, with participation from Iris Capital, Infocomm, NTT-IP and Saudi Telecom Ventures, as well as returning investor Atomico.

The service previously raised a total of $6.8 million, including a $5.25 million series A round led by Atomico and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups.

Dave is a Gengo board member and was rather bullish about the service, specifically and the concept, in general; while talking to a group of entrepreneurs (which included me in the audience) at a Geeks on a Plane (#goap) meet up in February this year.


And, it shows why. The company has seen significant traction recently. Already more amount of text has been translated by it in 2013, than it did it in the whole of 2012.

The growth has been fueled by Gengo’s partnership with YouTube which makes it one of the two integrated translation service for the Google company. Even as I write this, Gengo’s global staff count is expanding by leaps and bounds. And, that a major chunk of those investors are giant telecom companies at a global scale just helps validate the potential of the business and the idea.

Back at home in India, let’s talk about Newshunt which promises ‘Regional local news in the palm of your hands’. I had the opportunity of listening to Virendra Patil, the founder of Newshunt, at a #startuproots event organized by Nasscom’s 10000 Startups program and nextbigwhat.


The numbers for this app were incredible. Here’s what they boast of: 11 Languages; 85+ Publications, 25000+ Articles Published Daily; 6.5 Million Monthly Users; 650 Million Pages Consumed Monthly; 25 Million Installs and counting. They are doing way better than even their global counterparts.

Virendra specified that the part of their success had to be attributed to the vernacular font rendering that newshunt app does best. He also made an interesting point when he noted that the readers for his vernacular version came significantly from the urban areas, which seems very counter-intuitive.

Even the market for transliteration seems to be huge with not-so-humongous-players like Crowdflower, CastingWords and SpeechInk mostly relying on crowd-sourced dynamics from the sites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk for their services.

There is, of course, a significant market for Multiple languages and Vernacular mediums of Content publishing, translation, speech-to-text conversion etc.

All you future, idea-starved entrepreneurs out there, are you listening? Here’s your next big idea that will make you millions. What you are going to build using this is completely left to your imagination.

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