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Tan Tin Wee Interview
ভাৰতীয় মুদ্ৰাৰ বাবে টকা চিহ্ন
Meet Mr. Vishwanathan
Answering the call of Vande Mataram
Director of SRV Consultants, Mr. Vishwanathan is one of the pioneers who have taken Tamil computing to heights quite unscalable by ordinary people. BhashaIndia decided to talk to Mr. Vishwanathan about the various hurdles he needed to cross to launch his software and make it the success that it is now
Could you throw some more light on your interest in Indic Computing and how it started?
I'm the Director of a company called SRV Consultants, which is a company which concentrates mainly on products related to Indic computing, with emphasis being laid on Tamil computing. SRV Consultants is my brain child, which came into existence in 2000. I am happy that we have come a long way. About my educational qualification - I have a B. Tech degree in the Production Engineering. This degree was conferred on me by the Regional Engineering College (now, National Institute of Technology) in Calicut, in 1989. I joined the Bajaj Auto Ltd. in Pune as my first step in my career. I did my Post Graduation in Operations Research in Anna University. Joined TCS after that in the year 1992 and worked there for about three years. Working with companies like IT Solutions and Cognizant, Bangalore, helped in adding to my skills in software and also gaining some experience with respect to working various platforms and technologies.
I started my independent venture into the software field during 1997-98. Azhagi software started taking initial shape then. The first release of this software came about in 2000. And from there it has always been an upward journey towards success!
What triggered the idea of developing a transliteration software in you?
The reason for my working on Azhagi is actually quite a personal one. In the year 1998, A R Rahman's composition Vande Mataram was quite a rage. I had taken a liking to it too. I decided to look up the lyrics of the song so that I could read it. But I was surprised to discover that the Tamil version of the song was not easily available at that point of time. The software available for this purpose was deficient in being user friendly and required the user to have some amount of technical knowledge to avail all the features that it offered. Most were even lacking in desired features. I wanted software which would cater to my needs. I was looking for software, which could handle phonetic mapping. The text should be written in Tamil script just as you are reading it out or talking. Even ambiguity of characters should be eliminated. For example, there are three 'Na's in the Tamil script. The software I tried to use then used to display a 'na' whenever I tried to type a 'wa'. I was looking for 100% mapping. A Phonetic compliant software. This led to my trying to develop a software all on my own. I extended it to support a few other special features too.
What are the features of Azhagi, the transliteration software that you have developed?
I developed the transliteration software with user-friendliness being the key requirement. It is the most innovative word processor, which boasts of the World's First 'Dual Screen' Transliterator. This is the only transliterator which provides you with an option of choosing either a single screen or a dual screen transliteration window. You can get more information about this on http://www.azhagi.com/ .
What is the technology that you have used for Azhagi? What are the features that it has to offer?
I designed the whole software in Visual Basic. Windows programming was also a resource which I depended on, to a large extent. I had worked on VB previously and knew almost all the features of the tool. I think VB is very powerful and has a lot of useful features to offer. It's more like an enriched resource, waiting for all its energy to be tapped.
The information about Unicode was something which I obtained online. I learnt all about Unicode and its usage on Unicode.org. The site has all the details about the basics of Unicode, how it can be used and also how it can be altered to suit your purposes. I gathered as much knowledge as I could from there and adopted the same for Tamil script. The site specially defines the differences between the ASCII fonts and Unicode fonts, enumerates the advantages of Unicode and helps you to start off with it.
Azhagi is a luxury to people when compared to other trasliterators that can transliterate existing Excel sheets, web pages and also text documents into Tamil script in no time at all. It has been designed in such a way that the user can synchronize the English and Tamil text by viewing both versions of the text on the same screen. It has been intended to serve more as means of learning the Tamil script. The key mapping technique helps the user to match the English character with its associated Tamil script. As an added feature, we have developed a 'Reverse Transliterator' tool. This converts the Tamil texts into English script! That is, you get an exact English phonetic equivalent for Tamil texts. We have even incorporated the feature where the most commonly used Tamil phrases/proverbs are inserted into the text with just a single keystroke. 'Word count' for both Tamil and English texts has been provided. Tamil numerals can also be inserted as a part of the text!
How did you start the development of the software? Did you have a technical team to help you?
The whole transition has been a one man show. In 1999, I suffered from chronic Colitis and was bedridden for about three years. This required me to quit the job; I was employed in and stay at home. It was during this period that I started working on this concept. I developed the software and asked my acquaintances and family members to try it. They were quite impressed by it and encouraged me to develop it with the intention of marketing it commercially. As a result I got a technical team to support me and set about launching my company.
How has the response to your product been? How popular is it?
Azhagi strives to be the number one in the Tamil software field. It has been spoken about in various magazines, dailies and even television shows. I have been interviewed on various shows on television and my interviews have been published in The print media has featured me many a time. The reviews about the software have been uploaded on the site hosting the software. You can read them by following this link: http://www.azhagi.com/azPress.html.
The product has been used all over the world. I can give you a rough estimate of about 1000 users all over the globe, who have bought this tool! I know people in Uganda and Zambia who are presently using Azhagi. I constantly get mails from users saying that they enjoy using the software. After a certain interview of mine, on the television, I had about 500 calls from people congratulating me over it. The response has been overwhelming!
What is your perspective on Indic computing? How effective do you think it is? Is it being led in the right path or could it do with some improvement?
Indic computing has to pick up a lot. In the current scenario, developers are trying to concentrate on developing only one technique of mapping with respect to a certain language and are trying to extend it to all the available regional languages. I personally feel that's not the right approach. Each language needs to be dealt with separately and importance needs to be given to the special features and characters of that particular script. Each language is special in its own way. What applies to one language need not necessarily apply to all the others. So, I feel, the experts should stick to mastering one language, which they are familiar with and try to add advanced features to its transliteration. This tends to make even the users happy. They like to feel that their language is important and that it has been given special notice and attention.
Do you think the concept of Indic computing has been introduced to the rural areas?
The usage of internet in India, in general, is less compared to that abroad. People are not aware of all that internet has to offer. That's a setback. So the people in the rural areas are very much uneducated about the facilities available through Indic computing and internet in general. Let me quote an example. Our products are available on the net, to be downloaded on to your system when you buy it. But most of the users still prefer to have a CD sent to them with the software on it. They don't seem to realize that they can save their time and ours by just downloading it. There are chances that the CDs may have a problem and may not work at all. The possibility of facing problems with the software is much lesser when it is downloaded. But people fail to look that it in this way.
How have you gone about in advertising your product?
The great quality of Azhagi has done its own share in providing publicity. We publicized our product by sending mails to people about the software. We asked the users to let their friends and acquaintances know about the good features of the tool and do their part in encouraging this drive towards popularizing Tamil computing. The media provided a lot of publicity to our product by showcasing it on various shows and mentioning it in various articles. We have tried to target the youth with our product. Most of the current generation cannot read or write Tamil. So, they can type their text in English and use the tool to transliterate it to Tamil directly. We are aiming at wiping out the concept of a Tamil typewriter, completely!
What is your company working on right now?
We are working at converting the technology used in Azhagi to Visual Basic.Net. I'm also working on making the transliteration tool available to people. I would like to mention that BhashaIndia is doing a great job. The forums are great platforms to learn and discuss various Indic computing issues. The information available on the site is not available on any other website. While enabling the Indic support on PowerPoint and other services, you need to change certain settings. BhashaIndia is the only site that I've come across which has so much of detail about Unicode More people should get involved.But I'm very grateful to BhashaIndia for encouraging developers who have only quality products to offer. The Solutions Directory has only worthy products listed on it. I wish BhashaIndia all the luck in any endeavor that it plans to work towards!
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