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Brij Kothari

Brij Kothari innovated Same Language Subtitling (SLS) for mass literacy, a simple idea that is potentially worth one billion people reading every day in India and another billion globally. Brij is pushing for SLS to be implemented on all film songs and music videos on TV in India. Broadcast and education policy has accepted SLS "in principle" for a national scale up, however, a sustainable funding and implementation mechanism, is yet to be found. Brij is on the faculty of IIM, Ahmedabad. He holds a PhD in Education and a Masters in Communication from Cornell University. He founded PlanetRead and BookBox as a Fellow at Stanford University, to leverage the power of SLS. The SLS innovation is the recipient of several international awards.

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Non-profit Social Enterprise
Education; Social Innovation
Areas of Impact
South Asia, India


PlanetRead's mission in India is “Literacy for a Billion”. PlanetRead has innovated, piloted and researched Same Language Subtitling (SLS), a solution that could potentially deliver inescapable and everyday reading practice to a billion TV viewers in India. SLS is simply the idea of subtitling mainstream TV content in the “same” language as the audio.

One PlanetRead study showed that five years of regular primary schooling in rural India, with no exposure to SLS, resulted in 34% becoming functional readers. However, among school children who received SLS exposure at home on mainstream TV programmes, 70% became functional readers. Regular SLS exposure literally doubled the number of functional readers produced by schooling alone. India has 900 million TV viewers already and will soon cross one billion. The average Indian watches three hours of TV a day, in a mix of more than 20 languages, on 800 channels. The Indian film industry produces around 1,000 movies a year, each with an average of 5-6 songs.

Since 2002, PlanetRead has run SLS pilots on TV in partnership with Doordarshan, India's national/state TV network and Zee, a leading private network, by implementing SLS on song-based programming in 8 languages: Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Panjabi. From 2013-15, PlanetRead massively scaled up SLS in Maharashtra state on Zee Talkies. National policy now accepts SLS as a good idea in principle. However, this acceptance has yet to translate into a national scale up. PlanetRead estimates that $1 spent on SLS generates about 30 minutes of daily reading practice, over a year, for approximately 1,000 people. A sustainable national scale up of SLS in India requires only $5 million, spread over 5 years. That would get a billion people to read every day, for life. PlanetRead's global strategy is to scale up SLS in India first and let that speak for scale up in other nations with weak literacy.


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