Vokal, a peer-to-peer (P2P) knowledge-sharing platform in Indian Languages, has announced that it has raised $5 million in a Series A round of funding lead by China’s Shunwei Capital, and new investor 500 startups.
The financing round also saw participation from existing investors Accel India and Blume Ventures, it said in a statement.
Notably, Vokal was co-founded by Aprameya Radhakrishna, who is one of co-founders of cab hailing, TaxiForSure, which got acquired by its bigger rival Ola in 2015.
In the same year, Radhakrishnan co-founded Vokal along with Mayank Bidawatka. In Feb. 2016, the startup raised it first funding of $2 million from Blume Ventures and Accel, who had invested in TaxiForSure too.
Vokal was also one of the participants at Google India’s first mentorship and bootcamp program called – Solve For India – that the tech giant officially launched in this year only.
“Anyone who doesn’t know English in India has a huge problem of accessing relevant answers to their questions. Their Internet experience is poor with a dearth of meaningful content. We’re building a peer-to-peer content network that can cater to their information & knowledge needs,” said Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder and CEO, Vokal.
On the talent front, Radhakrishna said, “We are 35 people and will keep it a tight team for the foreseeable future, not exceeding 50.”
“Language diversity is an Indian problem and Vokal is building India-specific solutions to cater to the information and knowledge needs for the non-English users. We are happy to support Vokal’s mission of creating a destination for the vernacular audience. The market is expected to balloon to 550+ million users over the next couple of years,” Anand Daniel, Partner, Accel Partners added.
Vokal is a few months old and already boasts of 200000+ questions with 1000s of questions pouring in everyday on varied topics. It also has a live video streaming feature where experts share their knowledge with users.
Vokal is currently available in Hindi and is launching in multiple languages in the next few months, the statement added.
In March, a report by IAMAI and Kantar IMRB said that 205 million new internet users would come online if content is available in Indian languages, which will be key motivation of using internet for people who are not using it, said
Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder, Vokal said, “India is one of the few countries with such a large language diversity. The Indian vernacular segment is poised to be almost twice the size of the United States. Their Internet experience is broken with basic translation widgets available as solutions for their information and knowledge needs. We are creating a product grounds-up that they can use everyday.”
To recall, Vokal has recently acqui-hired StupidChat Technologies, a quizzing app startup, in an all-stock deal, in May this year.
Commenting on the Vokal deal, Tuck Lye Koh, Partner and CEO, Shunwei Capital said, “India is a large market and the language Internet users are underserved today. We are bullish on Vokal’s ability to create an information and knowledge platform to cater to this segment of users.”
Recent Investment in Vernacular Segment
Last year in May, Kalaari Capital owned seed program, Kstart Capital, had invested an undisclosed amount in Vernacular.ai, a broad-based engagement platform for a billion Indians using AI to address needs of people who can be reached only through vernacular languages.
Last August, Delhi-based B2C vernacular podcast aggregator platform Funcastic raised seed funding from a startup accelerator launched by HT Media Ltd and US-based investment firm North Base Media.
Shunwei Capital & Its India Investments
Founded in 2011 by Tuck Lye Koh and Lei Jun, Beijing-based Shunwei Capital is a venture capital fund focused primarily on early- to mid-stage investments in China’s internet industry and manages over 2 billion in US dollars across five funds. The VC firm seeks to invest in the technology, media, telecommunications, high technology, new media, games, internet finance, and rural area internet sectors.
Shunwei has increased its investment portfolio in India in the past few years. Last July, It led $1 million seed round of Clip App, a Bengaluru-based digital media video startup. Prior to this, it also invested $3M in Series A funding of Truebil, an India’s only curated, authentic and verified marketplace for pre-owned cars.
It also led a $6.25 million (Rs 43 crore) funding round for Pune-based online lending startup LoanTap, and participated in a $30 million Series B round raised by Cheche365.com, an auto insurance search engine, in November last year that was led by China Capital Group Ltd. A month before that, Shunwei along with Xiaomi Technologies led an $8 million Series A round for Bangalore-based microlending platform KrazyBee.