China-based smartphone and consumer electronics manufacturer Xiaomi and its venture capital firm, Shunwei Capital, are reportedly considering investing a whopping $15 million in funds in a Bengaluru-based social networking and regional content platform called ShareChat.

Started in the year 2015 by three IIT Kanpur alumni ‑ Farid Ahsan, Bhanu Singh and Ankush Sachdeva, ShareChat in simple words is a social media platform in local Indian languages. With ShareChat, one can share videos, jokes, GIFs, audio songs and funny images from India in Indian languages like Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, and Malayalam.

As of now, the platform only caters to 10 regional languages. The startup plans on raising funding somewhere between $65 to $70 million dollars so that they can add more regional languages and cater to more diverse people all across the country. It is interesting to note that ShareChat doesn’t have English as a language of choice on its platform.

So, are social media platforms in vernacular languages really a need in the country? Well, various research work suggest it is.

According to research firms, currently, there are 350 million smartphone users in the country, of which an odd 100-120 million users are fluent with English. The others would prefer their vernacular language over English as a preferred mode of communication. This is the gap that ShareChat is hoping to explore and fill.

Furthermore, research company Ernst and Young in a report highlighting the future of digital content consumption in India had shared that the 45 percent of online users in India consume regional language content. The report also claimed that with low data plans, low-cost smartphones and rural development on the roll, one can expect this number to increase exponentially in the near future. This explains the growing investor interest in ShareChat.

Sharing his vision about ShareChat, co-founder Farid Ahsan said, “This is a young and aspirational set of population which is coming on the internet now, on the back of cheap smartphones and easy availability of mobile data. They are very different from people in the big cities who have been using emails and social media for almost a decade. We want to cater to this fast-growing group of users.”

Reportedly, Xiaomi and ShareChat have already inked the big deal, but haven’t closed it yet officially. The app, which claims to have 1.3 million daily active users and 4.2 million monthly active users, can be easily downloaded from Google Play Store. It is said to have been downloaded 10 million times already.

This isn’t the first time that Xiaomi is considering pumping money in platforms catering to regional Indian content users in the country. Previously, the Chinese major had led a $25 million investment into digital media entertainment company Hungama that reportedly has over 8000 movies in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Punjabi and six other Indian vernacular languages on its platform.

This development was first reported in the Times of India.

[Image: udemy]

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