Phone options, language code and a caller-id based service

India saw a surge in telephones/cell phones only recently.

There are advantages of adopting technology late – like not getting stuck with wrong assumptions and old technologies.

However, there are some disadvantages also.

For example, the phone choice menu. Typical menu sounds like:

“Welcome to XYZ corporation. For English, press ‘1’, for Hindi, press “2”, for Kannada, press ‘3’…”

Such menu would work excellent in bi-lingual countries like Canada or pseudo-bilingual countries like the US.

India is a different story. Here, number of mutually unintelligible languages exceed a few dozen – and none is commercially more important than the other, except Hindi.

This poses an interesting problem. How to deliver the message in the language closest to the speaker without making the language selection menu too long?

To make matter worse, as India marches on to prosperity, millions of Indians migrate to other language speaking areas. This demographic shift is FASTER than the rate at which people learn local languages.

For example, in Bangalore, within a decade, Kannada speakers ceased to be majority. Tamil is the second largest language group, closely contested with Telugu. This means policies like “All phone numbers in Bangalore must have 3 languages – English, Hindi and Kannada” will become (if already aren’t) ineffective.

I can think of two options:

  1. Just like PIN (ZIP) code, provide standard language code (e.g. 00 for English, 01 for Hindi etc.) – this is VERY simple and effective. This will reduce the menu to: “Please enter your language code:” OR
  2. Start a phone number to preferred language service mapping as a third party service. So, if I dial somewhere, the caller-id to language mapping at the server would select Gujarati as preferred language WITHOUT I selecting it

Can you suggest more options?

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One comment on “Phone options, language code and a caller-id based service

  1. arun yogeesh says:

    3. Using voice (or Keyword) recognition language selection, sever should automatically suggest languages by using the callers voice (or Keyword). Eg : Serves responses in ‘Kannada’ when it picks ‘Kannada’ words from the caller.

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