हमको अँग्रेज़ी नही आती, अगर इंटरव्यू करिएगा तो हिन्दी में करिएगा
(I don’t know English. If you want to interview me, interview me in Hindi)
That’s Pooja for you . Unafraid and undeterred. Coming from a village near Deoria, 26 year old Pooja has set up her business of handicrafts back home, employing over 50 women of her village. When we had this conversation, Pooja had just returned after pitching her business to a panel of investors.
I remember my first startup pitch presentation at an event in Goa. The jitters of doing something for the first time, surrounded by a bunch of smart B-schoolers, minus existence of “B” words in my vocabulary— it was scary. In lunch breaks, the guys talked about valuations, FMAs, Hockey Stick, Sweat Equity. And about convertible notes. And financial projections. Insert some more fancy English words. I panicked. I couldn’t comprehend. At one point, I wanted to run away, enjoy Goa and get back home. I thought my startup idea was about telling stories, I mumbled to my friend on a ‘cheer-me-up-right-now’ phone call.
The reason why I began the article with Pooja’s language preference verbatim, is because I hardly hear such disclaimers. Because I hardly have had the balls to give such disclaimers. Of telling the other person, ‘Hold on, I don’t get these words. Can we talk in a language which both of us can understand?’
We are a country which hails of its diverse culture and language background, how we live in harmony despite the diversity. There are 1652 recognised languages spoken in India, a simple google search told me that, but my point is, “Is language the reason we won’t be successful?”. Take a second, ask yourself these questions: Can you create something? Do you know what are factors that your customers need, in what you’ve created? Can you sell? Can you understand your customer’s emotions, their grievances ? Well, you deserve a pat on your back. In neither of these questions did we face the problem of language. But we will when we reach out to customers who do not understand our dialect. But that is a part which can be taken care of. Either you can learn their language or you can have someone who knows both (Using jargon this person can be called a “translator”) Voila!
Indian startup ecosystem is buzzing with new ideas and vibrant energy. Thanks to increasing digital penetration and PM’s Startup India plan, people across lengths and breadth of India are taking the plunge to solve problems that most of us chose to settle with. Emerging startups from smaller towns and villages, they say, are bringing simple yet fundamental solutions.
“I think startups from smaller cities and villages have more matter in them because they experience problems first hand. Food-delivery is not a problem for them, availability of food is. Innovation in agriculture, edu-tech, healthcare, etc. is made considering limitation of resources. We can’t afford to lose out on these brains, just because they can’t pitch in English,” says Vivek Satya Mitram, founder of AdviceAdda.
“Coming from a media background, I believe it must be a media’s prerogative to create good, educative content in Hindi. How do you explain ‘traction’ in Hindi? Merely translations don’t help. Entrepreneurs coming from tier 2 and 3 cities aren’t usually acquainted with English and the ecosystem that it is now, de-motivates them. On Hindi Diwas, I think we, as a startup community should pledge to embrace people speaking languages other than English.”
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Nelson Mandela couldn’t have put it better. Though we are promoting education in English, we discard those who have already been brought up in a certain environment and no one can understand the need of their people better than they do. So, as it turns out, it might be beneficial to learn a dialect and understand our culture once in awhile if we want to see some progress.
Aditi, co-founder of EngineerBabu, is from Indore. She tells me how she doesn’t know ‘convent like English’. Aditi and her team recently raised their first round of funding from Scale Ventures, after bootstrapping their company for over 2 years, building a team of 47. She shares,
“I’ve often had instances when I felt hesitant at networking events, where everyone would speak and preach in English. Not that I can’t speak English, just that I wasn’t raised in that sort of an environment. It is not a language I am comfortable with. Over time, I realised that it is not about English or Hindi, it is about communicating your vision and plan in a right way.”
“I’ve been travelling across tier 2 and 3 cities for last few months, and I have personally tried to understand problems faced by some of the best brains. Language certainly is one of them. Keeping these problems in mind, we initiated The India Network, that intends to connect budding entrepreneurs from these cities, providing them the right connect, funding and giving them the recognition they deserve — irrespective of the language the team speaks or works in. If the idea is great and the team proves itself with the execution, we are good to go!”
Do you remember how Amitabh Bachchan opened the Cannes Film Festival 2013 in Hindi, his mother tongue. And Mr. Modi’s speeches in different countries, including at the UN? If they can do it amongst people who are impervious to the language, can’t we give it a try?
And well, we’ll take a liberty to tell you that Pooja is flying to Germany to learn about art forms and entrepreneurship, if that serves you some inspiration 🙂