\ Aksharsanvad – An Interview with Sunil Khandbahale

27 April 2012 \ Auditorium of Sir J. J. College of Architecture, Mumbai

27 April 2012 \ Auditorium of Sir J. J. College of Architecture, Mumbai

“A single word can change your life”, believes Sunil Khandbahale, who made the knowledge of innumerable words available to people through his creation, the first Marathi to English talking dictionary. In his interview conducted by the iconoclassic writer Gangadhar Menon during the 13th session of Aksharsanwad, Sunil spoke about his work, shared his journey towards attainment of these goals and his methods of functioning.

Coming from an extremely humble background, Sunil grew up in a tiny hamlet called Mahirawani near Nashik. Having being schooled through Marathi medium, Sunil often faced difficulties in understanding words in English, in college. It is from here that he developed an obsession for immediately looking up meanings of these words in a dictionary. Empathizing with this learning obstacle that most students from vernacular backgrounds face, the seed for his passion fordeveloping a talking dictionary was sown.Today, at the age of 33, Sunil’s illustrious career graph boasts of talking dictionaries not only in Marathi but 10 Indian languages that are available on www.khandbahale.com, a mobile dictionary, a Devnagari font, and several other related softwares.

Without absolutely any training or computer education, Sunil developed the softwares through self-learning and experimentation. He took assistance from many language experts to create a database for the dictionary. They helped him in word corrections, finding alternate words, compilation etc. Words were also collected using smart technologies hosted on websites, blogs, news portals etc. The dictionary has been designed in such a way that it provides multiple meanings of the same word starting from the most commonly used/accepted word.In case someone searches for a word that is unavailable, it automatically gets registered, add is added to the dictionary. Thus the software is constantly being improved. He also developed a phonetic based font for usage in the software.The dictionaries is also compatible with softwares like Microsoft Office.

Not only is the dictionary available online but Sunil and his team have also developed the dictionaries as mobile applications, SMS portal and Tablet applications. Alongside Sunil is also working on domain specific dictionaries in order to cater to the terminologies that are specific to different verticals. For e.g. terminologies used in agriculture, medicine and art will be completely different from each other and therefore separate dictionaries would be required to cover each of the domains.

When asked about the functioning of his business, Sunil described it as a unique industry model where people come together on a virtual platform and work on the projects from their different locations. And the impressive part of the entire work culture is that the projects are social. Most of these products and services are available for free to everyone. Several qualified people are associated with this cause on a completely non-commercial basis.

Sunil has declined several offers from multinational companies to make his softwares and applications available for commercial exploration only to ensure that sharing of knowledge would not be hindered due to economical obstacles. Describing Sunil’s incredible feats, Gangadhar Menon addressed the audience to note that the journey of understanding failure is more important than understanding success itself. This mammoth task achieved by the genius is a result of consistent hard work and perseverance. Today, www.khandbahale.com is a top ranking website on all search-engines for Indian languages. It is recognized as an industry leader by giants like Nokia, Microsoft and Google for Indian regional language development. Their work has been appreciated by number of governments and they have been awarded by various institutes.Today more than 6 crore people are being benefited though his work worldwide.What started once at individual level has now become a big organization.