ShareChat, the Indian language social platform, has closed a $4 million Series A round of funding, led by Lightspeed India Partners, and from existing investors, SAIF Partners and India Quotient. The funding round also saw participation from Venture Highway (through VH Capital). Sharechat is building the largest social content network in India with a focus on small town users and vernacular content.ShareChat is the only platform available to a large audience coming to the internet for the first time, in India.
“Our core focus is to become the most essential non-chat social app for a first-time internet user, whether it is through local language content or through infotainment services which are relevant to them.They are hunting for things to do that are utilitarian (payments, commerce, etc.) – there’s plenty of choice here from Flipkart to Ola to Justdial to PayTM. They are also hunting for ways to kill time (TV, games, books, magazines, news, music, social media, …) Most of what is in this “kill time” category is the traditional entertainment & media industry rejigging their content for mobile consumption and distributing this one-way through aggregators or directly. Examples would be Saavn or Hotstar or InShorts or Youtube. Almost no one has created or exposed new content for the average Indian common man or woman. This is what Sharechat is doing” says Farid Ahsan, Co-founder & CEO, ShareChat.
As the name suggests, ShareChat allows users to create, discover and share content with each other much like people do on Tumblr and Instagram. Users can follow other users who are either a content creator or a friend on the platform for regular updates, much-like most other social networks. The key differentiator for ShareChat, however,is the primary action of sharing.
“Our audience is ever hungry for both consuming localised content and expressing their creativity and opinions to the right audience, something that was not very easy for them until now, even with existing social networks. We believe that the Indian user is very typical in his/her needs and this gives a local player a closeness to user problems when compared with global social networking giants like Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat. A lot of our effort goes into understanding the audience and their needs through experiments. It is a lot like returning to an earlier time of internet usage, pretty close to how we were when we came to the internet for the first time in the early 2000s.” says Ankush Sachdeva, Co-founder and CPO, who has just returned from a survey trip to Alwar villages in Rajasthan.
Dev Khare, from Lightspeed India Partners, says, “ShareChat is poised to be a big problem solver for the largely-ignored mass market of India. The audience definitely needs a product which is relevant to their mindspace and we believe ShareChat balances this need of a content+social discovery platform in the best fashion.”
ShareChat is available in 6 languages, namely, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi. Tamil and Bengali are currently in private beta and will be shortly made available for all users. The app has been downloaded 3.5 million times, with roughly 2 million active users on the platform. At a daily level, 1 million content pieces get shared per day from ShareChat.
Mayank Khanduja, from SAIF Partners, says “ShareChat is in a very unique position in the Indian market today. We’ve worked closely with this team for the last one year and the way they have leveraged technology is outstanding.”
ShareChat was started by Farid Ahsan, Bhanu Singh and Ankush Sachdeva, right after graduating from IIT-K. The fact that the founders hail from small towns has helped their cause in making their first gut impressions right. ShareChat started as a content repository app for sharing on Whatsapp, and has now evolved into a full-fledged social network.
“When we invested 2 years ago, we just had a team and an idea to build a social network for the masses. From the days of ideating in our office, the team has come a long way and has grown along with the business. We rate them as the best product team we have worked with, especially their approach of blending data with experiments.” says Anand Lunia, from India Quotient, the first investor in ShareChat.
“We are excited about the product that ShareChat is building. We have always believed that a homegrown social product, built for the aam aadmi in vernacular, addresses a big opportunity in India. ” says Samir Sood, founder, Venture Highway, which is advised by Neeraj Arora, the Global Business Head of Whatsapp.
“It is always a great feeling to be backed by good investors who understand the space. But procurement of capital does not ensure success of a business, though being the lifeline considering we have a limited focus on revenue. The battle only goes uphill from here,” says Bhanu Singh, Co-founder and CTO, ShareChat.
“The fresh round of funds will be employed majorly for going deep into the vernacular ecosystem. Having multi-lingual interfaces is just not enough. We have literally just touched the surface of our target audience. These are early adopters. A lot of work is required on our part to make ShareChat a household brand, digging deep into the user base, and to bring even more interesting infotainment and utilities for our ever-expanding Indian market,” concludes Farid.