EXCLUSIVE | Bharat is the next billion for brands: Sudheen Mookola Lakshman, Crystal Hues Ltd

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Sudheen Mookola Lakshman, Founder of Crystal Hues Ltd, started this advertising and translation agency in 1989, thanks to his passion for the French language and computers. Crystal Hues was born in the special niche area of multilingual communication and localization, and in 1995, got incorporated as a public limited company.

At its heart, Crystal Hues help brands expand business globally by bridging the language and cultural divide. For his pioneering effort and contribution in bridging the communication divide of diverse cultures, Laskshman was  honored with the REX Karmaveer Chakra Gold Award in 2019.

With more than 30 years of experience, Sudheen has set up and led many ventures. In 2019 he co-founded FairGaze Skills Pvt Ltd, a media-based ecosystem focused on the holistic development of school students. He also developed the NCC Training App which was inaugurated by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.

In this exclusive catch-up with MediaBrief, Lakshman shares how he began his entrepreneurial journey with Crystal Hues, his views on the importance of personalization and localized content in the globalized marketplace, and the expertise required to help brands — global and Indian — communicate effectively in every language across India, where Bharat is the next big milestone of growth.

Tell us about Crystal Hues Limited, what inspired you to start it and how were the initial days?

Having pursued my passion for French language and computers, the search for a role which would use both of these skills landed me in a pharmaceutical company to assist them in exploring francophone markets. I realised that there was a need for a language solution provider to convert any document into any language in a ready-to-print format. That inspired me to incorporate Crystal Hues Limited in 1995.

Of course, I had to overcome the usual challenges of any startup and believe me, back then it was all the more, if you can imagine that just getting a phone connection would cost you Rs 15k, or over Rs 1 lac in current Rupee valuation.

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Since its inception in 1989 how has the company evolved and how has your journey as an entrepreneur been like?

Crystal Hues specialised in using technology to deliver documents in any language in a print-ready format and evolved to meet the client requirements to deliver language services for multimedia, the internet and software using multiple domain specific technologies.

This provided me the exciting opportunity to explore latest technologies and work with multiple languages to ensure that clients get the best results. I also got to understand the deeper nuances of management, especially people management since every bit of work that we do involves a specialist.

Tell us about your client roster, Crystal Hues’ team size and its footprint in Asia?

Crystal Hues has been working with clients across all domains and includes multinationals, Government establishments, corporate houses, small scale enterprises, advertising agencies and non-profit organisations.

A partial list of clients includes ASUS, Accenture, BMW, BBC, Canon, Cipla, Discovery, FaceBook, GE, Gillette, HCL, Himalaya, Hughes,  ISA, Infosys, L&T, OPPO, Mahindra, Pepsico, PNB MetLife, TATA Interactive Systems, Star TV, Sun Pharma, US Government, UNAID, Virgin Atlantic, WHO, Wipro, World Bank, etc.

Crystal Hues is an ISO 9001:2015, ISO 17100:2015 and ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified company with 7 offices in Asia, staffed with 150 + full-time professionals, domain experts with varied specialization and several hundreds of quality-verified contracted consultants worldwide with a capacity to deliver over 3 million words a month.

How have you been communicating about Crystal Hues’ offering, what is your marketing approach?

Being one of the pioneers in the industry, Crystal Hues is popular for translation and localisation services and is among the leading five companies in India in this domain. In addition, we actively participate in events and conferences in addition to engaging clients through direct outreach.

How can personalization of content delivery help international brands entering Indian markets?

Personalization is one of the important aspects of communication and even more important is the use of local language in communication. For an international brand, reaching out to customer in the local market necessarily requires communicating in the local language and this is a precursor to creating brand affinity.

The Indian market is unique with the language changing for almost every state, but then each state also promises to be a formidable market that an international brand cannot afford to ignore.

Obviously, international marketing communication services are crucial in a ‘globalized’ world. Why do you think so?

The world has now become a global village more unified by economic activities and less separated by geographic boundaries. The market for any product or service is no more restricted to a particular region but the major hindrance to transacting across such a globalised world is communication in the local language.

However, with international marketing communication services, a business can open up any market across the world.

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As we are becoming more and more global, the growth of indigenous languages is slowing down. How can we as individuals address this issue?

Although the world is becoming more global in various aspects, the language and culture remains a permanent feature of any society for centuries. I believe, the globalisation inculcates more openness to different cultures but that does not necessarily lead to restricting indigenous languages.

I agree that not knowing English language is somehow considered equivalent to being “uneducated” but that is not a global perception. We as individuals need to encourage local language among the young generation.

In fact, the New Education Policy by Government of India has taken a significant step in promoting local languages by encouraging primary education in the local language.

More and more brands are exploring the India heartland ‘Bharat’. How can Crystal Hues help them enhance their accessibility and customer engagements?

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Bharat actually means “the next billion” for the brands. The non-metro population is an untapped market for practically all the brands both domestic as well as international. However, one of the major hurdles is the inability of the brands to communicate in the local languages.

This is exactly where Crystal Hues comes in with their expertise in helping brands communicate effectively in every language across India and across every medium of communication, be it print, films, electronic, or the internet.

How has Crystal Hues helped brands localize content? Any case studies you would like to share?

Crystal Hues brings their unique ability to work with languages and technology which is a requirement to localise content. Brands may have a simple requirement of localising their brochure in different language but then it may also wants its product screen or the software application to appear in different language.

Crystal Hues, with its diverse specialisation across languages and technologies is able to seamlessly assist clients in any localisation requirement. One of the earliest localization projects that Crystal Hues executed includes the most popular accounting software or the screens of the most popular mobile phones in India.

What are your plans for Crystal Hues’ growth and expansion?

Crystal Hues is looking to expand exponentially through M&A route and is now looking at consolidating the Indian localization industry.

Is there anything else that you would want to add?

Crystal Hues has been one of the early adopters of technology including development of proprietary ERP for end-to-end operations, knowledge management and management of human resources. To the extent, that we did not lose a single work-day nor did our clients face any difficulty getting their projects executed, in spite of the sudden, unexpected announcement of lockdown.

Also, not a single resource was laid-off due to the pandemic. The “Work From Anywhere” policy was introduced March 2020 along with host of other policies like doing away with attendance, reducing the productive hours by at least 20%, etc. We also consciously enforce equal pay and gender diversity including having woman board members, constituting Internal Complaints Committee to oversee Sexual Harassment Policy.

Our policies are among the best practices adopted worldwide. A testimony to this is that Crystal Hues never had the need for “General Manager” and trusted their employees to deliver on the KRA given to them with least intervention from the management.

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