A Lingual Twist to Social Networking

As per a recent KPMG report, by 2021 75 percent of the country's internet user base will comprise regional language users.

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By Punita Sabharwal


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Manoj from Uttar Pradesh, India always wanted to be a speaker. He started doing commentary and posting it on ShareChat and in no time built a huge fan base on the platform that waited to hear him every single time. He eventually landed a job with a media company in Delhi. The above is one such story that makes us believe that Indian social media networks are not just about 'good morning' any more.

As per a recent KPMG report, by 2021 75 percent of the country's internet user base will comprise regional language users. Whether it's the low-priced Chinese smartphones or Jio penetration across the country that made internet accessible to a large number of users; all this has given a lingual facelift to Bharat. When we all talk about digitization moving from India to Bharat, tech startups are the first to wake up to this phenomenon. These first time internet users identify with their local language. KPMG estimates, 54 crore language internet users by 2021, while the English Internet user base would be just about 20 crore. Recently, Roposo, an Indian social network added eight regional languages to its platform. With this, Roposo markets its penetration in tier-II and tier-III cities. Homegrown startup Niki.ai provides Voice Commerce in Hindi to eradicate language and visual interface barriers for non-English speakers.

"With our Artificial Intelligence-based proprietary technology, we are building a product for Bharat. We've built a virtual friend, Niki that Indians can speak to in their mother tongue to carry out online payments and transactions. We have removed all interfaces, keeping everything similar to the offline world, where every service and product is availed through the medium that we're most familiar with conversations," says Sachin Jaiswal, CEOco-founder, Niki.ai.


ShareChat has a community of 25 million monthly active users across 14 Indian languages and stands at 10 million daily active users. ShareChat recently concluded its Series C funding, which was led by Shunwei Capital, and Lightspeed Venture Partners, Xiaomi, Yuri Milner, SAIF Partners and Morningside Venture Capital. It raised $100 mn (Rs 720 crore) in the Series C. As of today, it has raised a total of $124 million. In the words of the founder, Farid Ahsan, "ShareChat is not focusing on revenues rather it is focusing on building the right product."

Three founders of ShareChat worked on 16 different products before stopping at ShareChat. Ahsan says, "We stumbled upon the ShareChat opportunity, while working on our debate app "Opinio'. Not able to figure out where to get audience for a debate around a celebrity with mass following, we started testing out various things in WhatsApp chats and groups. The background of smaller Indian cities, and the zest to solve problems, helped us see a big disconnect between the new internet audience and the ones we socially belonged to. The demand-supply gap for vernacular content was apparent and it was then in December 2014, we started working towards ShareChat."

A look at the recent data shared by Research firm, Tracxn reveals that Sharechat has clearly been the winner so far when it comes to Indian social media platforms with vernacular languages. The company has not only received maximum funding but has also received maximum attention from Chinese investors tapping big on the Indian market. A look at the chart (see below) would tell you that Sharechat has been consolidating its market share over the years and is a hit among the social media community. Roposo, which was formerly a fashion platform, pivoted to follow the trend of the market. Just after Roposo, there is Rocketalk, which was started way back in 2007 and has failed to create any lasting impact with the Indian audience. Clipapp and Vokal have been the late entrants post Sharechat. What makes Sharechat click is the clarity of the business. It turns out this one surely seems to be a sure shot winner.

After the Facebook fiasco it has even added to the popularity of ShareChat. From a 10 million daily active users if ShareChat is able to get to 100 million it would prevail over the Indian market completely unlike any other player. The question remains: can ShareChat be a Facebook? Well, it might be difficult but this soonicorn certainly has a lot of potential.

This article was first published in the November 2018 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here

Punita Sabharwal

Deputy Editor, Entrepreneur India Magazine

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