Sunil Kulkarni

Fidel Softech Pvt Ltd

Vice President | CITLoB West Zone

[More about him here]

This is an historical opportunity for India in many ways

Q: You have been working in several languages.  What do you think are the linguistic peculiarities of your region?

A: I had the opportunity to learn Hindi-Marathi-English in school and professionally had an opportunity to learn Japanese language. This exposure helped me to understand similarities and the influence on self because of Japanese& Indian languages.

Western India is the region where I come from and here we have Marathi, Konkani, Gujarati as major local languages besides Hindi (Maharashtra – Gujarat – Goa being termed as Western India).

Marathi is commonly spoken across Maharashtra and uses the Devanagari script. Konkani which is spoken in Goa and western coastal regions too uses the Devanagari script. (In case of Konkani since it spans across Maharashtra / Karnataka, many use Kannada or Arabic as script though Devanagari is termed official)

All these languages Marathi, Konkani, Gujarati change with local flavor and local influence within Western Maharashtra and hence very interesting.

Q: Tell us about translation profession and language business in West India. 

A: Western India is blessed with 75% and above literacy and is blessed with excellent universities with language learning options. Cities like Pune, Nasik, Aurangabad, Ahmedabad, Surat, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Goa have some excellent colleges and universities for local and foreign language learning. Pune was once upon a time called the “Oxford of East” and has contributed to language learning through various institutes like Ranade Institute, Indo-Japanese center, Goethe institute, Bhandarkar institute and many private centers. Around 1000+ candidates appear for Japanese exam every year.

Due to the availability of local talent, many foreign and local language agencies and service providers have found Western India as a good base for setting operations. Some local and foreign language service providers like Lionbridge, theBigWord, Transperfect, BITS, Fidel, Rikaikan, LinguaSol and many more are all based out of Western India and active in hiring, training of new entrants in the translation field. 

That said, the industry is still nascent and the automobile & tractor – agriculture – finance – pharma – insurance – banking – entertainment – hospitality – tourism are major sectors who have yet to invest heavily in local language localization.

Q:What are the requirements of the language business in Western India?

A: Western India is blessed with key states / key industries. The states include Goa – Gujarat and Maharashtra (some ministries include Rajasthan / Karnataka too as part of Western India). Maharashtra & Gujarat together contribute 23% to India’s GDP (Maharashtra: 14% & Gujarat 7%). Together these states house industries like textile, automobile, finance, pharma, entertainment, tourism, agriculture and so on.

From a population perspective, Maharashtra & Gujarat contribute to 10% population with Marathi, Gujarati, Konkani as major local languages with Hindi as a common connector.With such a huge population and with the new govt initiatives like Atal Pension Yojana, Jan Dhan yojana etc, a lot of underserved population is getting into the banking and insurance fold. Likewise Ayush Bharat initiatives are ensuring healthcare and pharma reach out to the marginal segments of the society. To ensure successful delivery of these private sector and public sector initiatives, local language user interface, messaging, educational contents and reachout is very much necessary creating more opportunity for language learners and language service providers.

Many foreign collaboration JVs and foreign firms (German automobile sector /French cosmetics and FMCG firms / Japanese firms in Gujarat) are housed out of western India and require bilingual staff in communicating regularly with the parent firms. Interpretation requirements are more in such firms.

Lastly, technology is a key underlying driver across the country and Western India is no exception. It houses some good AI, product firms which are developing some core technologies where again NLP, audio-video technologies, linguistics knowledge, linguistic testing requirements are seen.

A combination of interest or knowledge in local language and some domain knowledge or technical knowledge can help in tapping many of these requirements.

Q: As the VP, what would be your 3 vocal points for the next 2 years?

A: While I have to discuss with the President and the rest of the team on various initiatives, 2 -3 points close to me are –

  1. How we can create more awareness in the public/private industry (in western India) towards creating a domestic demand
  2. How we can assist SMEs / individuals in this localization field from a mentor / learning / technical perspective to create a level field
  3. How we can work with agencies from taxation and other lobbying perspective

Please tell us about yourself and your entry in the business…

A: Originally from Pune – while I did my engineering in Pune University, I got an opportunity to study Japanese language at Ranade institute & Indo-Japanese Association in the initial days. This combination helped me professionally to get a job in Japan and since 1997 I am based out of Tokyo.

In 2001, I turned into an accidental entrepreneur and since then managing Fidel Softech Pvt Ltd a company focused on LangTech consulting.

While in Japan, I got to see and learn as how the Japanese have achieved tremendous growth while ensuring relevance and continuity of their culture& language. They have created an environment where if one wants to do business with them, one has to adapt to their language. This left a big impression on me and together with some help from clients we have successfully built a practice of localization and technology over past few years.

…and about your team, service, technology and recognition

A: Fidel and its group company LinguaSol have received various awards from its clients & other agencies. LinguaSol was SAP’s Global Language Partner under Endorsed Business Solution (EBS) “By Invitation Only”. LinguaSol is also a recipient of few patents. Fidel team members have published few papers and my colleague Mandar Inamdar is also a member of a language committee in SAP. I myself am a recipient of the MIT (Boston) Japanese program award. Given the business scenario and the volatility, I think sustaining few years with the help of our clients, team members, partners and ensuring continuity is in itself an achievement.

Q: What is your success mantra?

A: Team with Persistence and hard work will succeed

Anything more you would like to add…

A: This is an historical opportunity for India to leverage its inherent strengths of a huge market, young population, strong consumption and growth. Technology and localization will be the key drivers to assist and companies/ individuals have a huge opportunity to invest and contribute to this growth..