[Funding Alert] Vernacular Content Platform Raises Fresh Funding, Plans E-Learning Expansion
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Josh Talks, a vernacular social content provider, has raised $1.5 million in a new round of funding from New York-based Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF). With this investment, the start-up said its valuation has crossed INR 100 crore.
Founded in 2015 by Supriya Paul and Shobhit Banga, Josh Talks creates online videos in eight different Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam, aimed at bringing socially relevant stories to inspire those in smaller Indian cities. Since starting, they have also begun two new verticals: Josh Kosh and Josh Skills. The former is a career-guidance platform while the latter helps low-income students to learn essential skills to get a job.
“With the support of MDIF, we are looking forward to expanding our vernacular growth in India, building our Skills vertical and taking Josh to other developing nations,” Paul said in a statement.
As young entrepreneurs who wanted to bring socially relevant content to a large audience, Paul and Banga started with organizing physical conferences.
“The thought was really simple and naive, which was that young people have so much potential, what if we could provide a platform to give them a sense of direction with that production?,” Paul told Entrepreneur India.
Their first event saw 300 people. It was then that they met a faculty from one of Delhi’s top colleges who liked the concept and invited them to do something similar at one of their conferences. That’s when the two realized that this was something that could be built into something bigger.
While their events were fairly popular and started getting a lot of interest, according to Paul, moving online was necessary when they realized that it could help them tap the largest possible audience, and in a much more convenient manner. It was also during the same time that Reliance Jio had disrupted the telecom industry with cheap availability of data and smartphones, giving several in tier-II, tier-III and even smaller cities access to the internet for the first time.
The shift from English to Hindi and other vernacular languages was also to cater to that audience, and the traction they got from switching to Hindi solidified that idea. “What we did in Hindi in one month in terms of viewership, we had done that in English maybe in 12 months,” said Paul.
Currently, 45 million people watch Josh Talks content on a monthly basis.
For each video that goes on the platform, there is a long process of ideation, writing and even working with speakers for a 30-40 day period to help them talk well.
“Because these speakers are not public speakers, their stories are from the bottom of the pyramid,” Paul said.
While the videos were performing well, the company also started receiving requests from viewers who wanted some hand holding, wanted to learn and meet from the speakers. In line with the demand, the company launched Kosh and Skills.
While Kosh isn’t something the company has monetized yet, they charge anywhere between INR 199 and INR 599 for different courses on Skills. The original video vertical earns via corporate partnerships and branded content.
Skills is only four months old but contributes 10 per cent to the company’s revenue, Paul said.
Already profitable, the company is targeting 2 million paid subscribers for the Skills vertical in the next 12-18 months, which currently has about 50,000 paid subscribers.