Patrice Riemens on 19 Oct 2000 16:23:09 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] "A Rose by any other Indian name"

Forwarded message:
> goanet-digest       Thursday, October 19 2000       Volume 01 : Number 3059
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> In this issue:
>     [Goanet] Epatra - Helping in Transliteration
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 01:22:00 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Gaspar Almeida <>
> Subject: [Goanet] Epatra - Helping in Transliteration
> A Rose by Any Other Indian Name
> by Manoj Joshi
> MUMBAI, India -- To a new generation of Indians
> displaced in the United States and elsewhere, keeping
> in touch with their families back home over email has
> always come with the peril of attempting to
> communicate in English.
> But a concept called helps Indians with
> a rudimentary knowledge of English converse in their
> native tongues.
> And it's free.
> In a country where 1 billion people speak 18 official
> languages, this was a phenomenon just waiting to
> happen.
> The site transliterates English characters into as
> many as 10 Indian language fonts. For many Indian
> parents who would never touch a computer and wondered
> how to communicate in English, it's becoming a
> valuable tool.
> It works like this: Someone in the United States
> without access to a Hindi keyboard can type in a
> message phonetically, using English fonts.
> For example, "Mera naam Sharma hai" would be the
> phonetic English for the Hindi "My name is Sharma."
> Epatra converts "Mera naam Sharma hai" into Hindi
> characters -- and that message, in Hindi, is sent to
> the desired destination.
> In addition to Hindi, epatra supports Marathi,
> Gujarati, Punjabi, Malayalam, Assamese, Bangali,
> Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada -- all widely used Indian
> languages.
> Epatra, with its 300,000 registered users, is a
> channel in a horizontal portal called,
> which gets an estimated 10 million page views every
> month.
> "And these figures are growing at the rate of 30 to
> 40 percent every month," says epatra vice president
> Manas Mohan. "Some 30 percent of the users are based
> in the United States, 40 percent in India and the rest
> in Europe and elsewhere."
> In India, where Internet users are predominantly
> in big cities, "We see in the near future the Internet
> penetrating small towns and villages through tools
> like epatra," epatra's proprietor Vinay Chhajlani
> said.
> That's already happening.
> The transliterations can be extremely useful,
> particularly within India itself. In the workforce,
> it's become an effective way for people to
> communicate when visiting regions where their native
> tongue is not spoken.
> Punjabi truck drivers, with assistance from English
> knowing cyber café care-takers, have recently taken to
> sending mails to their bosses saying that they have
> reached their destinations.
> An elderly man in Pakistan tells his friend in India
> - - in the Urdu language written using the Gujarati
> script - that, "but for the fact that Pakistani women
> are prettier, we are all the same." Recently, at an
> Internet exhibition in New Delhi, the chief minister
> of Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav, registered with epatra.
> Though Bihar is one of the most undeveloped states in
> India, his gesture symbolized a hope among many that
> one day the Net in India will not be dominated by the
> sophisticated English-speaking types.
> "There are one or two similar sites in China and
> Japan, but I would say this idea of transliteration is
> more relevant to India because we speak so many
> languages," Mohan says.
> even has a chat room where users can talk
> in about 10 Indian languages.
> The National Association of Software and Service
> Companies has predicted that by 2003 the number
> of Internet users in India will be about 23 million.
> Vinay Chhajlani, who owns Webdunia, believes that
> only 40 percent of these people will be
> English-speaking.
> "If the projections are that 6 percent of Indians will
> be Net users in a few years, you don't expect this
> growth to come from the English-speaking alone,"
> Chhajlani says. "In fact, there are less than 6
> percent in this country who understand English. I
> believe that very soon the number of people who
> don't understand English will far exceed those who
> can, on the Net in India."
> This point of view is supported by the fact that an
> email site called -- the only other
> Indian site that uses the transliteration software --
> supports 11 languages and has 100,000 registered
> users, despite only starting a few months ago.
> Webdunia also has launched a unique feature to
> add value to its users. Epatra's Mohan uses the
> most improbable phrase to describe this value
> addition: "Snail mail."
> He explains that if a user from anywhere in the
> world wants to send a letter to his mother who
> doesn't have access to the Internet, or doesn't
> care about the Net, he can just send an email to
> Webdunia, in his native tongue.
> Epatra will do the transliteration, and then forward
> it, via regular post, to any corner in India.
> "I used this feature to send a note to my mother
> in Bengali," Mohan said. "She thought I had learnt
> to write in my mother tongue finally."
> =====
> End of goanet-digest V1 #3059
> *****************************

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