Category Archives: localization

Challenges of Indic Adoption on Mobile Web

Last month on 15th March 2012 at New Delhi, W3C India & IAMAI (Internet & Mobile Association of India) had organized an one day conference titled “Mobile Web Initiative in India”. I got invited to participate in one of the panel discussions on the day “Challenges of Indic Adoption on Mobile Web” covering on the Technology for enabling Indian Languages on Mobile Platform & Lack of standard interoperability. 

Challenges of Indic Adoption on Mobile Web

The panel was moderated by Ms.Swaran Latha (W3C India Country Manager & Director & HoD for TDIL Programme of MC & IT of Government of India). The moderator covered in length the challenges in this area, what Govt. of India is doing to get all stakeholders on board in enabling Indian Languages, nudging them into place without any hard legislations.  My good friend and the expert on this field Mr.Muthu Nedumaran from Murasu Systems (Malaysia) covered on the technologies that are now available including in iOS, Android (HTC Explorer) and recent BlackBerry OS. Mr.Sridhar of Akruti talked about the path that has been covered in last two decades in this field.

Swaran Latha & Venkatarangan Thirumalai

I myself talked on the need for educating and awareness building amongst the users & stakeholders on the possibility & business potential of enabling the Devices, OS and Apps for Indian Languages. India only has 5% of its population (say 40 Million of the 800 Million Mobile users) who know to read & write English, what about the 95% they are not using SMS or even Address book?. There is an urgent need for the industry to educate the users that using Mobile doesn’t mean learning English & poor communication. I have seen that most of the time the Device OEM’s Engineering & Head Office (say in US, Europe, Japan or Taiwan) is ready to do Indian Languages (when they do tens of languages worldwide this is routine to them), it is the Indian Marketing & Operations office that throws the spanner. They sit in their glass offices in Gurgaon & Bangalore and think everyone in India speaks English including Drivers, Maids, Cooks & Factory workers. By doing this they are not only killing our languages (but most of Indian Languages are classical languages surviving over thousands of years of external invasion), but also depriving the productivity & economic advantage that better communication through Mobile enables for common man (Aam Aadmi). 

There is no cost reasoning today for not doing Indian Language support today in Mobile Devices (it costs less than 50 US cents per device and falls to zero when you go to millions of units). Today Indian Languages is supported in major Mobile OSes – iOS (Display & input through Apps), Android through OEM software from HTC or Samsung has full support and Blackberry through add-on install. Even Nokia Symbian OS has support enabled in their lost cost devices. Only Microsoft Windows Phone 7.x doesn’t have any kind of Indian Language support, it is sad because Microsoft was the first major OS vendor in PCs to fully support many of the Indian Languages way back from Windows 2000. Hopefully the next version of Windows Phone (WP8) having an unified Kernel with Desktop Windows (Disclaimer: Nothing official yet from Microsoft, but rumoured here) will start supporting Indian Languages.

Finally if the stakeholders can’t be convinced it is time for Parliament (and not individual State Assemblies) to come with laws requiring Indian Language support across the eco-system (Operator, SMS, Devices, OS & Apps) – *YES I said this, which is rare for someone like me who prefers lean and small Government & Compact Laws*.

Swaran Latha, Venkatarangan Thirumalai, Sridhar

Kani Thamizh Sangam Meeting– August 2011

இன்று கணித்தமிழ் சங்கம் தனது மாதக்கூட்டத்தை எங்கள் அலுவலகத்தில் (விஷ்வக் ஸொல்யுஷண்ஸில்) நடத்தியது. கூட்டத்தில் தே.மு.தி.க சட்டமன்ற உறுப்பினரும், மாஃபாய் நிறுவனருமான திரு.கே.பாண்டியராஜன் சிறப்புரையாற்றினார். தமிழக மாணவர்களிடம் கணினி தேர்ச்சியின் அவசியத்தை சிறப்பாக எடுத்துரைத்தார். உறுப்பினரின் பலப்பல கேள்விகளுக்கு அழகாகவும் பொறுமையோடும் பதிலளித்தார். அவருக்கு நன்றிகள்.

KTS Meeting on 29August2011

Felicitation to Mr.Ma Foi. K. Pandiyarajan, MLA

Google translate supports Tamil

Having not seen any new successful product announcements from Google for last year or so I was feeling Google is losing its magic touch, it is getting bogged down by its own size and return of Larry Page is going to do little to change course. When I make the previous comment, I am not counting Android or Google Chrome announcements made me in recent Google I/O – those are enhancements, what I am talking is fundamental innovation.  But today something happened that made pause this thought for a while and give credit to Google for its basic computer science research and its leadership position.  It is the release of support in Google Translate for 5 Indic Languages including my mother tongue “Tamil”.

Though many research labs with their computer scientists & linguists both in India & outside are working on this for more than last 3 decades, having a publicly accessible Tamil translator has always remained a dream. I have personally met many of these great minds during the INFITT Tamil Internet conferences, but unfortunately they were all few critical steps away from completing their great work due to resource constraints. Many of these projects were also happening in silos – Private firms research arms, Government funded academic labs, Universities Linguistic departments and so on.

Though it is in Alpha stage and is far from perfect, it is a big day for all Tamilians. What Google has released today at is two-way translation (To Tamil & From Tamil) :

1. English (and other languages) to Tamil: The “Tamil” only speakers of Tamil Nadu & around the world can now access and enjoy the vast majority of World Wide Web without being hampered by not having English proficiency.


2. Tamil to English (and other languages): The entire world can now enjoy the timeless treasures in Tamil literature and written by Tamil poets.


Tamil Nadu gets a new IT Secretary

With the arrival of a new Government, Tamil Nadu got its new IT Secretary – it was Dr.Santosh Babu, IAS. Fortunately continuity was maintained as Dr.Santosh was earlier Managing Director of ELCOT and worked in the same department under previous IT Secretary Mr.P.W.C.Davidar. Dr.Santosh is a fine gentleman and one who is passionate about technology and its impact on E-Governance and Citizen Services, he has many pioneering E-Governance projects in the country to his credit. I had the privilege of working with Dr.Santosh Babu, Mr.P.W.C.Davidar and his whole team during the Tamil Internet Conference last year in Coimbatore which ran inside the Chemmozhi conference. Today few of us from local IT community went and congratulated Dr.Santosh Babu on his new assignment. All the best to him and his department.

(Seen Above – Dr.Santosh Babu, Mr.Anto Peter, Mr.Anandan, Dr.Arul Natarajan, T.N.C.Venkata Rangan, Mr.Paul, Mr.Benny)

Writing diacritical marks in MS Word

Today in my Yoga class my Yoga teacher approached me with a problem. He is writing some Sanskrit slogas with Latin Characters in MS Word and he is not able to get the diacritic marks, like the apostrophe or dashes on top of a English letter or below a letter. An example is below of what he is trying from an old Yoga textbook:


Coming home I contacted my good friend Murasu Muthu Nedumaran, an expert calligrapher who instantly pointed me to the answer. The trick is to use what are called as Combining Marks in Unicode. Below are the options on how to do it.

Option 1: In MS Word first type the base character you want say “A’” then select the Insert Symbol dialog. Select font as say Arial and then in the Subset drop-down Combining Diacritical Marks. Choose the mark you are interested in, you can also use the Shortcut Key to assign key shortcuts for faster input everytime.


Option 2: If you want to input the diacritic marks in applications other than MS Word, you can use the input “Character Map” applet in Windows 7 (Vista or XP). Just type Character map in Start->Run to run the applet. In the applet, select Advanced View, Character set as Unicode. Then scroll down near U+0320 location and you will find the combining marks.


Option 3: If you want to input only Accents, MS Word has in-built shortcuts like Ctrl + ~, then Shift+A to get À. A full table of these shortcuts are here.

India “Rupee” Symbol


Government of India recently introduced a dedicated symbol for its currency (Rupee). Rupee (Rs.) is being used by several other countries including our neighbours Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & others. So having a dedicated symbol for India becomes necessitated for it to be differentiated from others. Initially I was sceptical about this symbol, considered this to be a publicity effort by the central government and that the symbol has to be accepted by all language speakers in the country. In the last few weeks as I see the growing usage of this in Media and elsewhere, I am convinced that this is a welcome move and it is needed to reinforce India’s growing Economy and its importance in the World stage.

Now the question is how do you start using this in PCs.

- Some companies immediately on government announcement shipped font files containing this character. Two of them (Foradian, Artech) have mapped this symbol to ~ (Tilde character above the Tab key in your keyboard). This is nothing but a Quick ‘n’ Dirty temporary fix. I will not recommend this as it doesn’t provide any interoperability. At the worst it can be used on Presentations and Brochures for display only.

- The proper process for using this character is that Unicode consortium & then ISO have to give it a unique number (location ID in the code-chart), which they have done tentatively in their recent meeting in USA. Department of Information Technology announced that Unicode has allocated U+20B9 location for the new Rupee Symbol unique to India. The existing location of  U+20A8 (that displays Rs) will still continue for use by others.  Now this has to ratified and published in their upcoming standards document and then Software vendors (Operating System mainly) have to implement this by shipping this Glyph in their default fonts and enabling typing of this character in their Keyboard Inputs. This is the only route to ensure that your documents (Word files, Excel spread sheets or even a webpage) having this character will show up the same in someone else PC.

A company called Foradian Technologies have released here, a free software to type the new Rupee Symbol and display it according to the proposed Unicode location, making this symbol available before it gets Operating System vendor official support.

Relevance of Unicode to e-Governance

When Dr.Santosh Babu (IAS), Managing Director of ELCOT invited me to present in this year CETIT Conference, I had not known much about the event. Then searching on the Internet, I learned that “CETIT 2010 is the second year of the conference-cum-exhibition on e-Governance organized by FICCI in association with ELCOT. CeTIT claims to provide an opportunity to take stock of the practice and the promise of digital technologies on e-Governance”. This certainly sounded interesting, so here I am.

This year program happened yesterday and today in Chennai Trade Centre. I presented on the topic of “Relevance of Unicode to e-Governance”, this was part of the session on “Back Office” Chaired by Prof.M.Anandakrishnan (Chairman, IIT Kanpur).

In my brief talk (~10 Mins) I was keen that I didn’t confuse audience with too much engineering detail on Encoding. At the same time I wanted to demystify Unicode and what it is, importance of a single uniform encoding, where we are in terms of acceptance of Unicode by various State Governments & Govt. of India. That I think I achieved.

Venkatarangan in CETIT 2010 Panel (3)

Download the presentation as a PDF from here, the PowerPoint version can be got from My earlier presentation on UNICODE for Tamil can be seen here.

My Quote in Mint Newspaper

Today in Hindustan Times Mint business paper there was an article on recently concluded Tamil Internet Conference 2010 and it included a quote and information from me. The article titled “Mixing Tamil and tech to book computing” was done by Ms.Niranjana Ramesh, who interviewed me some time back and we had a good discussion stretching for few hours. You can see more of the past press coverage of TI2010 in my earlier post here.

livemint 15July2010

Article can be found online here in

Tamil Internet Conference 2010 – It’s Over!

(I am doing this post in English for benefit of a wider audience. Please treat the below post as indicative and as my personal take, for official coverage please contact TI2010 secretariat or INFITT’s secretariat)

Phew! (taking a deep breadth). The last two weeks of working for Tamil Internet Conference 2010 (TI2010) was really tough for me. It was not at all easy, but personally I found it to be a great learning experience for me, worth every drop of my sweat. I have lot to say in this post and I don’t know where to begin – anyway let me make an attempt. 

First some background, I am the serving Chairman of a international voluntary organization working on promoting Tamil IT activities called “INFITT” and member of the TamilNadu Government’s committee (LOC) for running TI2010. INFITT was founded in 2000 and is a registered NGO in California, USA. INFITT has conducted eight Tamil Internet Conferences before TI2010. Tamil Internet Conference’s (TIC) are some of the largest of all technical conferences that happen anywhere in the world for an Indian Language & Technology combination.
Typically every TIC has three core committees: 

  1. LOC (Local Organizing Committee) constitutes of that year event’s local (Co-Host) representatives, INFITT’s local representatives. and other local industry bodies. They are in-charge of funding, venue, logistics, travel, infrastructure (in short all the Hardware)
  2. CPC (Conference Program Committee) constitutes of a scholarly team of Linguistic computing researchers, Technology & Language Experts. They are tasked with forming the agenda of the event, topics, call for and selection of speakers – basically the entire content (or software) for a TIC is provided by this team
  3. IOC (International Organizing Committee) constitutes of INFITT’s representatives from around the world, they are in-charge of facilitating/getting international delegates and other tasks

TI2010 is the latest in the series and happened last week in Kovai (Coimbatore) in conjunction with the World Classical Tamil Conference (WCTC).  Speakers and observers had come from various countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Canada, the USA, Britain, South Korea and Germany besides all over India.Over 110 papers were read in four halls, over the four days.

For me this meant doing hundreds of emails with my fellow INFITTians & committee members, helping in scouting & inviting delegates, answering questions from our General Body, preparing for and attending scores of meetings, the many visits to secretariat, swelling contact list in my mobile & the event website / social media. The most eventful for me and the other teams were the day before (22nd) and the first day (23rd) of the event where we had to handle hundreds of guests coming in, their hotel logistics, answering their queries and so on. Since WCTC was inaugurated by Hon’ble President of India, security was at unprecedented event – so we had to be  very careful on handling ID cards/invitations. Most of us (TI2010 organizers) were not from Coimbatore so getting used (in terms of travel time, hotel locations, etc.) to the city took us few days. Getting in & out of venue was not easy due to security to the venue (CODISSIA) being tightened few days in advance and thousands of people were queuing the roads to the venue to see the colourful arrangements even before the start of the event . 

Tamil Internet Conference TI2010 by TNCV (16) Tamil Internet Conference TI2010 by TNCV (27)
TI2010 by Devarajan TI2010 by A Kumaran (9)
TI2010 by A Kumaran (12) TI2010 by Devarajan (5)

The last day of the event saw one of the bitter wars for last decade in Tamil IT come to an end with TamilNadu Governmnent’s GO on 16-Bit encoding that recognized Unicode as the Primary encoding and TACE16 as the only alternate encoding.

For this event to have gone this well, the credit goes to the teams who did a brilliant job – the dignitaries from Govt. of TamilNadu, ELCOT & NIC staffs, Volunteers, Local Organizing Committee, Conference Program Committee & other teams of TI2010 & WCTC (World Classical Tamil Conference). It was my privilege to have served with such qualified & diverse teams.


  1. View the TI2010 Conference book
  2. Select recordings of TI2010 talks are here and in YouTubeyou need to look for WCTC2010 tag and search for hall names like சுஜாதா அரங்கம், உமர் தம்பி அரங்கம், சண்முகலிங்கம் அரங்கம், கோவிந்தசாமி அரங்கம், முரசொலி மாறன் அரங்கம். Sorry, we couldn’t get around to list only TI2010 talks separate from WCTC
  3. Transcript of my vote of thanks speech (PDF, DOC) delivered during the Inaugural plenary session on stage with Hon’ble Union Minister for IT & Communications Thiru.A.Raja & Singapore’s Senior Deputy Minister Thiru.S.Eswaran
  4. Press coverage of TI2010

Outside TI2010

Apart from TI2010, there were many other activities going on in WCTC – including Scholarly talks on Tamil language, the Exhibitions (TI2010, WCTC, Bookfair) which were open for public and visited by thousands. Only on the last day I was able to visit the WCTC cultural Exhibition for an hour or so. I found it to be quite informative to know about Tamil Language, Culture & History – I was pleasantly surprised to see a pavilion by ISRO. Normally what would take you visits around the state (TamilNadu) to different museums and some archaeological libraries (not open to public) were displayed in one place.

WCTC-Cultural-Exhibition4 WCTC-Cultural-Exhibition2
WCTC-Cultural-Exhibition1 WCTC-Cultural-Exhibition3

In the “India Post” gallery I was able to buy for Rs.10 special printed post card bearing the logo of World Classical Tamil Conference 2010 (WCTC) and post it to my friends from there itself – a nice souvenir. 

WCTC Postal Card0001

I couldn’t find time to visit the Book Fair or the inaugural day floats procession. On the day of floats it took me 4 hours to get back from the Coimbatore city hotel I was staying to the venue for some last minute arrangements, that too I started after the floats event got over – so much was the crowd.

Press coverage of Tamil Internet Conference 2010

I appreciate doing informative interviews to the press, it is even more important to do it as a “Chair” of an international organization like INFITT. Press interactions and the publicity as a results really helps an organization and in reaching its message to a wider audience. At the same time I am not a person who likes to be covered in press for any reason and so I am quite measured in my interactions with Media. Few things I have learned over the years are that: In general there may not be anything called “off the record” in Press interactions; Media covers what they like and what will interest readers – not necessarily what you consider important or passionate about; Press reporters cover a wide range of subjects every day, so you got to keep your message simple and easy to comprehend; it may not be considered as a proper etiquette to ask them whether you will publish the story, when you will publish it or for a copy of the program recording or photos.

Prelude aside, here are the press coverage of Tamil Internet Conference 2010 where I was mentioned. For other press coverage of TI2010 please go to the conference blog site here.

கல்கி – June 19, 2010 (Issue dated 27.06.10)

Kalki interview

The Hindu – June 23, 2010


தினத்தந்தி – June 25, 2010


The Hindu (Coimbatore Edition) – 27 June 2010

“It pains to note that many Tamil scholars are yet to realise the power of computers and Internet, says T.N.C. Venkatarangan, Chair, International Forum for Information Technology in Tamil (INFITT)…”

Source: The Hindu Article

தீக்கதிர் – 27 June 2010


நக்கீரன் (Issue dated 30.06.10)


Sun TV News – 27 June 2010

தமிழ் இணைய மாநாட்டின் கடைசி நாளில் நடந்த நன்றி நவிலல் விழா மற்றும் மாநாட்டின் முடிவுகள் பற்றிய ஒரு செய்திக் குறிப்பு. நன்றி: சன் டிவி செய்திகள்