Published: 24th March 2021
Here's how VideoWiki is helping non-profits make informative videos in regional languages
What started as an initiative to add regional language videos to Wikipedia's platform, has now grown exponentially. We speak to Pratik Shetty and Hassan Amin about their initiative VideoWiki
When Pratik Shetty was returning home one day amid heavy rainfall, he was greeted by big pools of water all around his apartment society. On asking the security guard to get it cleaned, he got some pretty life-changing advice. "All I wanted was for the water to be removed so that mosquitoes don't breed and bring dengue. But the security guard's response to this was that if I ever got dengue, I should come to him as he had home medicine for it," recalls Pratik. On asking the security guard what he meant, Pratik found out that the guard was referring to a video of home remedies that he had seen online — one with neither a legitimate source nor backed by scientific fact. "The video was in Hindi and it was then that I realised that so many people trust these unverified sources and diagnose themselves during life-threatening diseases," says Pratik.
This got Pratik thinking. "I informed the guard that it was an unverified source and that he couldn't treat himself based on some video he had watched online. But the video had thousands of views and there were so many out there like him who were doing the same," he says and continues, "I told him how he could verify the source and check whether what was being said in any video was legitimate or not. I told him about Wikipedia and how he could read up there. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to read and couldn't understand any other language either."
After researching a lot on how to make Wikipedia more accessible, Pratik found the reason for Wikipedia not having any videos on their platform. "Wikipedia is all about collaborative editing but editing videos is exactly the opposite," says Pratik. Soon after, he contacted his schoolmate, Hassan Amin, with whom he decided to launch a video platform where they could help add regional language videos to Wikipedia's content. And they named the initiative, VideoWiki. "We developed a collaborative editing platform for videos," says Pratik, who is a Chartered Accountant-turned-
But while Pratik and Hassan started by helping Wikipedia, the duo has now branched into an online video localisation platform that helps non-profits. "The problem of localising video content is not just restricted to Wikipedia, several organisations face this problem too. And when we could identify the problem, we knew that we had to help them too," says Pratik. It is then that the duo began working on another low-cost video localisation platform. "Translation is expensive. There is a need for a studio and translators have to be flown in from various parts of the country to record and that needs a lot of money to be executed. But with the video localisation platform, anyone anywhere can have access to the software. All they need is a quiet room to record," explains Pratik. But what about the background noise? Well, the duo has it all figured out. "When we began in 2019, a Machine Learning-based background noise cancellation software was just in the market and we were able to leverage that. This significantly helps bring the translation cost down." says Pratik who adds that Hassan, who has a Master's in Machine Learning, is the tech expert.
VideoWiki's localisation problem works on two separate models. Pratik explains, "There's a DIY model, where people can upload their own work on the platform and get it done themselves for free, and the outsourcing model, where they can give their content to us and we can make videos for them." VideoWiki has a team of 50 to help with the operations, including two people assigned to each regional language and four people to widely-spoken languages like Hindi and Tamil. They currently support ten Indian languages on their platform.