ShareChat Is Changing How Next Billion Users Will Interact On Internet: Co-founder Bhanu Pratap Singh
Twitter-backed ShareChat allows users to share their opinion, record their lives and make new friends in their own native language
India has a population of 1.3 billion, which will probably touch 1.4-1.5 billion in this year's census. At present, India has over 750 million Internet connection subscribers, and will soon dethrone the leader China as India heads towards the one-billion mark. Needless to say, with such high Internet penetration, the number of smartphone users have also skyrocketed and is expected to settle around 820 million by 2022, according to a report by Indian Cellular and Electronics Association and consulting firm KPMG. All these above-mentioned figures imply one thing: Indians love to be online, as they want to stay connected and be updated with whatever is happening around. And what place is better than a social media platform to stay connected.
Social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way we communicate. India, primarily a non-English speaking country, the likes of Facebook might have seen an active participation rate, but have failed to strike the right chord among the large portion of the population who aren't comfortable with English. One of the early companies to have spotted this setback was ShareChat, a Bengaluru-based startup that was founded in 2015 as an indigienious social media platform which boasts of operating in 15 Indic languages including widely spoken Bengali, Marathi Malayalam, Tamil, among others.
In an interaction with Entrepreneur India, Bhanu Pratap Singh, co-founder and chief technology officer of ShareChat, shares what led to the idea of ShareChat and how the platform continues to differentiate itself from others.
Sachin Tendulkar to WhatsApp Group
ShareChat was founded by Ankush Sachdeva, Farid Ahsan and Singh in January of 2015, after graduating from IIT-Kanpur. It was during their penultimate project, the three of them came across a Sachin Tendulkar post on Facebook, which had invited people to join WhatsApp group. Curious of the post, they went inside the group after providing their numbers. To take their experiment a notch higher, they started 10 WhatsApp groups on Sachin Tendulkar and were stunned to see these groups reaching their potential as participants discussed various topics in their regional languages.
"We realized that there was a huge appetite for local content amongst Indian users. This eureka moment convinced us to build a platform for Indian languages and here we are with ShareChat, India's first and largest Indic social media platform," he added.
Twitter-backed ShareChat allows users to share their opinion, record their lives and make new friends in their own native language. The app segregates content into different genres such as news, fashion, humour, sports and devotion, among others, for easy accessibility and discovery.
The app claims that it is changing how the next billion users will interact on the Internet.
Singh shared that in 2015, there were few social media platforms in India which catered to urban population as they operated in English. "Indians especially those hailing from tier II, III & IV cities found it difficult to interact and connect culturally with these platforms. While these platforms were very attractive, they weren't designed for the first time Indian Internet users," he explained.
He said there was a content vacuum on the Internet for native languages and ShareChat was created in order to address that need.
"ShareChat was started with a vision to make users comfortable in the digital space without worrying about English literacy."
ShareChat has till day raised $264 million and has been in the news multiple times as reports of it getting acquired by Google and Twitter surfaced time and again.
Driving Businesses To Locals
In terms of business, advertisement has been till date the longest running way to grab attention of customers. With the advent of social media, advertisement seemed to have taken a holy dip, as reaching millions of users never felt this easy. However, though Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other US-based social media platforms existed, it failed to reach the majority of Indians who resided in rural pockets. As per a Google report, around 70 per cent of current Indian Internet users prefer Indic languages over English. Two brands—PolicyBazaar and Games 24x7—that have accommodated these local-language speakers are reaching more customers than they were previously, giving them a whole new captive audience to engage with.
Singh said that ShareChat's community is dominated by language-first Internet users and hail from tier-II and tier-III cities; a space brands focus to scale.
"We work with brands and marketers to design customized campaigns, relevant to their target audience. Taking their product deeper into the country and engaging with audiences, they haven't been able to do at scale. This helped us create a unique proposition for brands, while enhancing the user experience," he added.
A year after ShareChat started monetization, around 150 brands have signed up with them and worked with them on multiple occasions.
Post the ban on TikTok by the government of India on the grounds of security reasons, several indigenious social media companies came under the limelight. These apps overnight rose to fame and saw download numbers that they could have only dreamt off. Some of these apps were talked highly by the government of India in order to support "Vocal for Local'. They raised funds in a quick time. However, ShareChat which has been in the ring since 2015 during months long lockdown saw a tremendous rise in video consumption and news genres and is now witnessing a 31 average minute daily user spent.
The app currently enjoys a monthly active user base of around 160 million and has male participation rate of 77 per cent. However women have contributed significantly with 42 per cent in content shares, post the lockdown. It has also been noted that female share in content creation—41 per cent—was more than their presence 32 per cent on the platform throughout the year.
Singh said the founders continue to enhance their product with the best-in-class artificial intelligence/machine learning technologies that are intuitive to the community's needs.
"Our advanced features and easy UI makes us stand out in this constantly evolving market. Right from the signup process to the interface, the app is easy, simple, and user-friendly for the first-time Internet users," he added.
The company claims to work extensively on the camera front by leveraging augmented reality, filters, stickers, live streaming and live streaming video, among others.