Make your online presence fit in with the Indian market

A guide to localisation for India

1 Overview

We’ve created this guide to help you get closer to your Indian customers. A web presence that is in tune with India’s culture will make your customers feel well disposed to you, and give them confidence in doing business with you. Get the little details right, and you'll be in a good position right from the start in your new market.

2 The main language

In India 95% of online content is written in English according to a study by KPMG in India and Google. But by 2021 the number of Hindi users will exceed English-speakers.

On television 95% of the language is Hindi.

Hindi is one of the country’s two official languages and spoken by almost 60% of the population. The other language is English. Use localised English and Hindi to cover the majority of online audience.

The main written and spoken languages in India vary by region and include:

  • Hindi
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Marathi
  • Bengali
  • Malayalam
  • Kannada
  • Gujarati
  • Nepali
  • Punjabi
  • Odiya

3 Formality

Should you be formal or informal when addressing your customers?

Indian customers would expect to be communicated to in a formal, but friendly manner. It is acceptable to address customers by their first name with a prefix of their title, e.g. Mr. Mrs., when communicating in English. Or suffixing जी when writing in Hindi.

It can be considered rude if a younger person addresses an older person without the Hindi suffix or English prefix.

If you have a financial product, a legal service, or are talking about money, you should adopt a more formal tone and style.

4 Numbering systems and formats

Numerals

Decimal separator

This is a dot or full stop (.),
e.g 1.5 hours.

Thousands and decimals

The thousand separator is a comma and a full point (,) (.),
e.g.1,524.00 people.

The written and spoken term “lakh” is frequently used to say “one hundred thousand”,
e.g. 100,000.00 is called a “lakh”.

The written and spoken term “crore” is frequently used to say “ten million” or one hundred times one hundred thousand, e.g. 10,000,000.00 is called a “crore”.

Numbering system

The Indian numbering system is unique. In numbers of at least one lakh (one hundred thousand), a comma divides every two rather than every three numbers to the left of the last three. For example:

Indian system Western system
5,00,000 500,000
12,12,12,123 121,212,123
7,00,00,00,0000 7,000,000,000

This is because the Indian numbering system has units for thousands, hundreds of thousands, tens of millions, etc.

Telephone numbers

Every village, town, and city in India has its own Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD) code. The larger cities have the shortest STD codes. Smaller so-called “tier two” cities have longer STD codes.

The largest metropolitan cities have shorter area codes (STD codes), which are two digits. For example:

STD Code Large City State
11 New Delhi Delhi
22 Mumbai Maharashtra
33 Kolkata West Bengal
44 Chennai Tamil Nadu

The smaller so-called “tier two” cities have longer STD codes of three digits. For example:

STD Code Medium-sized City State
120 Ghaziabad/Noida Uttar Pradesh
135 Dehradun Uttarakhand
141 Jaipur Rajasthan

The total number of all phone numbers in India is ten digits. This includes the STD code,
e.g. 1411234567 has the Jaipur STD code 141 plus a seven digit number.

For landlines a district code is used. You have to add the prefix 0 or +91 when dialling district to district.

When dial;ing locally use the phone number with no prefix.

For Inter state calls use the country code +91 or 0 before dialling a number.

Mobile phone calls have the prefix +91 followed by a ten digit number.

When calling a landline from a mobile phone use the prefix 0+ the STD code followed by the number.

5 Currency format

Indian Rupee. This is represented by the sign ₹. Its trading three letter code is INR,
e.g. 500 INR.

The rupee comes in banknotes and coins.

The rupee note denominations are ₹2,000 ₹500 ₹100 ₹50 ₹20 ₹10 ₹5.

The rupee coin denominations are ₹1 ₹2 ₹5 ₹10.

The 50 paise coin is half a rupee.

6 Dates and times

Date and time formats

The date format is DD-MM-YY,
e.g. 24-03-17.

7 Hour formats

The 12-hour clock is widely used in everyday speech and written communications.

The 24-hour clock is often used on railways and used on digital devices like PCs, phones, tablets, etc. and is the format on Android where the separator is a colon,
e.g. 14:24.

8 Working days

Standard working days are Monday to Friday or Monday to Saturday.

9 Things to avoid in the Indian market

Every culture has different superstitions and traditions which are always worth noting, especially when entering a new market.

The number 13 is considered to be unlucky.

When giving monetary gifts for birthdays or weddings, always add an extra rupee so the amount does not end in a 0, e.g. 2,001 rupees.

10 Important rules

Here are the top seven translation tips that will make you sound like a local in no time:

  1. Take a note of differences in spelling, punctuation, pricing, date formats, measurements and terminology

  2. Stay clear of colloquialisms and expressions used in your language, as they may not translate in your Indian market. For example, local slang

  3. Take account of cultural differences so you don’t confuse or offend your Indian audience. For example, don’t reference a North Indian festival to your South Indian customers, and vice versa. Localise as much as you can

  4. Word for word translations can sound unnatural, engage a local speaker to translate local idioms and phrases

  5. Context is very important. Use pictures that can be used across all of India. If you can’t do this, then use South Indian pictures for South Indian states. Use images relating to North India in North Indian states

  6. An Indian buyer will be hesitant to buy online in case they lose their money to fraudulent sites. So be sure to include enough language and data on your website to establish trust with your potential buyer

  7. It can be complicated making online payments due to low banking and plastic money penetration. So provide payment options such as cash-on-delivery and mention it across the site

11 Additional guidelines

Discover how to ensure your website is local in tone and language in our website localisation guide.