Finally! After so many rehashed, discouraging and low-key startup pitches I’ve heard in recent months, finally I see something delightfully innovative and something that has huge potential.
Three people out of Karachi have created PakTranslations.com – the first machine-based Urdu Translation service on the web.
Think about this for a second – this is a zero-install urdu translator for website owners. E.g. From today We can offer a full Urdu version of Green & White here.
What is striking about this service is that its actually very good — it doesn’t just do word-for-word translations it seems, because it seems to pick up the semantics of the word very accurately. Try it with words like “expats” and “leapfrogging”. It seems to figure out grammar and sentence structure very pleasantly as well.
What’s to like about this service? Well whats not to like? Lets drill down the product and business model so that I can explain why Google must acquire this company today.
The Product and Strategy
As I mentioned, the technology is very nice, fairly accurate (for beta) and can only improve from here.
The product and strategy seem to be spot on well, and shows an aggressive push for capturing and owning this space. They’re giving away a lot of free services that would be immediately useful for content and website creators.
The free text and free website translation services mean that I can simply provide a link from my site make my site more accessible to local readership.
But it helps drive massive amounts of traffic back to the paktranslation services page, which even now has sponsors and shows ads on the page.
In addition to this, they have paid consulting services to help you get started with your own permanent urdu website from today.
I really like their startup story – The project is the brainchild of one person Zeeshan Ahmed, who left his job and started building his own raft two years ago. He didn’t stand in the sidelines trying to do petty PHP projects to get by thinking he was doing well as an entrepreneur, he started out to build a brilliant product, and he has.
From what I hear, Zeeshan has been involved with this fulltime, tirelessly for the past three years despite enormous social pressures from family and friends – and the three of them should be proud of their choice of persistence.
The Business Proposition
Pakistan is the 6th most populous nation in the world, and the world cannot deny the massive potential that lies within the rural and lower-income segments of society.
But even if they had access to the internet (and they will with many of the activities ISPs and Telecos and also researchers are participating in) language presents a massive wall to a significant set of our population.
Imagine for a second what would happen if you could immediately provide a low-income person access to Wikipedia in Urdu — the world’s knowledge — in Urdu.If you provided them access to learn and participate in a linked, knowledge economy to further their own profession.
Imagine for a second the types of economic effects something like this can have – that a small PCO in every street corner could have a cheap PC through which low-income people could have access to special job boards for jobs for cooks and janitors and others.
We’re not talking about servicing just the local industry, or about Google being able to offer “translate this to urdu” in their search results.
The question instead is what is the value of opening the floodgates of information on the internet to the 68Million potential internet users that ISPs will be targeting this year and the next?
What is the value of grass-root net enabled economies that rely on micro-transactions (Rs.10-20) between any of those 68M people and PCO owners to have access to that internet?
Even if Google doesn’t buy them, some local ISP should work with these guys to distribute these systems to a chain of PCOs across the country. Once you give 68M people access, the local consumer web application market can begin to skyrocket as well, especailly with Amaana as a payment backbone.
Good job Zeeshan and the rest of you – its projects like yours that make us feel Green all over, and not with envy.